Happen is welcoming Adam Sisson, Head of Research and Development, Oral Health at GSK Consumer Healthcare as our newest advisory board member. Adam has worked in research and development for a decade, first at Reckitt Benckiser in healthcare, before moving to GSK in 2016. We speak to Adam about what innovation means to a large organisation, and why he wants to work more closely with Happen.
How did you first get to know the Happen team?
I’ve known Happen since they helped RB on a Nurofen project in 2007, and I’ve done numerous projects with the team at RB and GSK. I’m now at a stage of my career where I’d like to do other things, and this advisory role seemed like the right fit.
Why Happen, and not another organisation?
A few people had asked me to join their organisations as an advisor, but I turned them down. I love working in innovation, in new and unimagined needs – and Happen are incredibly strong in that space. I have a real passion for being consumer-centric, and Happen has that in spades. I also have a real desire to help people and nurture talent, and I’ve seen a lot of that at Happen – it will be great to work with that talent, grow it, and see it go from strength to strength.
Happen has so much to offer, from the breadth of industries they get to witness and experience, to the breadth of techniques, analytics and data they get to see. There’s a real depth to that, and that’s incredibly exciting and motivating for me.
What skills are you bringing to this role?
In addition to my business acumen, my main skills are in coaching and mentoring. I help people with their problems, but I don’t solve them. I act as a sounding board, helping people crystallise their thoughts and options. I wanted to find a company I thought was really great, and that I would want to support for a few years; but I also wanted to find people that want to be nurtured and are open to ideas. There’s a skillset to being open, and not everyone is. To Happen’s credit, they are. I can also be here to share real life opinions on what a client actually feels.
What are the benefits of this advisory role to both yourself and Happen?
For me, seeing how smaller organisations deal with risk, governance, how to roll people off and on projects, and how to apply that to a bigger business is interesting. Big corporations are good at managing risk and governance. But there are things we can learn from small business around how people manage a diverse set of activities, and stay motivated and dedicated for a long period of time. The number one asset at all businesses is their people – how do you nurture and grow them?
How has the view of innovation in business changed?
Innovation covers a broad spectrum, which can make it very difficult to be laser focused. We need a different narrative around what type of innovation we are after. People talk about transformation, disruption, digital innovation – all of these can mean one and the same thing.
How does this impact the work Happen does?
We need to be very clear on what innovation is, and from a Happen perspective we need to ensure we are speaking the client’s language so projects are seamless. We need to be a selfless partner, understand client culture and values, and be willing to integrate into that. At the same time, keep a sense of what Happen is – an adventurousness and innovative agency that provides the rocket fuel for their clients.
There can be, at times, a friction when the goals of what an agency does is not clear. Deliverables should all be agreed and you should be very clear on what success in innovation looks like. If anything is wooly, that’s a rocky foundation to start a partnership on.
How do we ensure clarity in all areas?
We shouldn’t underestimate the real need for everyone in business to have a sense of what we communicate with a client. You should be asking, ‘is my language the same as theirs’, and for an agency that’s hard. I work with a range of partners and I don’t think it should be underestimated, the need to care and show that you care about the client’s business. The last thing a client wants to hear is how good your business is – they want to hear how amazing an agency like yours will make their business. When I talk to Happen, it’s always authentic and truthful.
What does innovation mean to you?
Innovation can be a new process, product or platform. For a lot of companies there is also a focus on process innovation – how to do things faster and better. Companies scarce of resources have to get work done to deliver revenue. Bringing pace and simplification through innovation is valuable to a company of a larger scale.
Are big companies open to that kind of rapid change?
I do think it’s possible and they are open to it – it’s a skillset in itself. When you have a partnership and relationship with a client, you can advise on this. Change management is very important. I talk about bitesize chunks – what’s the chunk of change you need to make. Habits are also important. Companies have their own rituals and language, but also their own habits. If they bring in an agency, they get the opportunity to learn good habits.
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