From T shaped planners to the rise of the generalist. The increasing risk of “Google Planning”. Top tips for staying curious, inspired and well-informed. All this and more in our exclusive Q&A with IPA Strategic Planning course chair Angela Morris (JWT), and co-chair Kate Smither (Saatchi & Saatchi).

TCC: What’s different about the course this year? Why focus on ‘planning in a post
specialist era’?

Angela: There is so much knowledge out there that it’s easy and comfortable to stick to your knitting and focus on one area. But that isn’t helpful to our clients who increasingly have less budget for multiple different specialists and look to their strategist to be able to leverage multiple disciplines and knowledge areas.

Kate: The course this year is really aimed at collaboration. Not just skills but how they can be applied and how they impact what we do.

TCC: How would you sum up the course?

Angela: Thought provoking, brain food. And time out to think not just about solving the client brief in front of you – but alternative ways to do that or augment that for all the briefs that follow.

Kate: Inspirational, exhilarating and a bit exhausting. Our hope is that this course makes attendees think in a whole new way. It should fill their minds with new ways to change their day jobs. To not just think differently but to be different and to create the future of planning in agencies.

TCC: What does the newly defined generalist look like to you?

Angela: For a long time we’ve talked about T shaped planners (with one deep specialism and a shallow understanding of many others). Now it’s time to shift to Generalists – with deeper knowledge across many specialisms and the ability to leverage one or more of them to create game changing strategies.

Kate: Generalist used to get a bad rap, you were specialists of nothing. Today I think a good generalist needs to be able to know depth on topics that impact their work and to be able to talk the talk across disciplines to allow better collaboration to occur.

TCC: Despite all the changes, which principles of planning are still fundamental today?

Angela: There are many planning fundamentals that remain vital and timeless irrespective of the changing context and market. These include accurately defining the problem, truly understanding the target, genuine insight and a strategy that is a solution and not just a job request (or hospital pass!), and a learning loop for continual improvement.

Kate: Genuine human insight and truth will always be fundamental. How we do things may change but the fundamental drivers of what we do and why won’t.

TCC: What is the biggest challenge facing today’s planners?

Angela: With time frames continuing to shrink, some of the rigor behind great strategy is being lost – hence the rise of quick solution Google Planning. We need to fight hard for (even just a little more) thinking time. It’s not lost time, it’s a vital step to increased effectiveness and that makes time spent on strategy a great ROI.

Kate: There are two big challenges facing planners today. The rise of Google and the fickle way we approach insights. Google is dangerously putting a screen between us and the world around us and encouraging planners to be able to find an answer from their desk. Equally, there is a tendency to proliferate insights which voids out their significance. True insights are bloody hard to find.

TCC: How do you stay inspired, curious and well-informed?

Angela: My curiosity takes care of that! The world around us is full of things that make me wonder why (and where and how…) and once that thought is in my head, it’s like an itch I have to scratch by finding the answer!

Kate: the annoyance of everyone around me, I talk to everyone and find everything and everyone fascinating. I ask questions, listen and am never afraid to be dumb. The brilliant thing about the world is that there’s always something to learn.

IPA Strategic Planning Course
Planning in a Post Specialist Era: This three-day residential course aims to define the new era of strategy and showcase the knowledge and skills that planners need to think in an agile, flexible and influential way.

The course is recommended for strategic planners, account managers and brand managers with at least five years experience.