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The Big 4 Will Stomp On Your Creativity Like a Grape

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Nicola Mansfield talked about why she jumped ship from Deloitte Australia recently to become the managing director of Interbrand, a brand consulting firm owned by global advertising company Omnicom Group.

Mansfield joined Deloitte in late 2015 after the Big 4 firm bought the brand and spatial design startup Mash Up, and served as a director in Deloitte’s experience design team.

When talking about her time at Deloitte, Mansfield was very diplomatic, even complimentary, saying she “will treasure” the three and a half years she spent there. But when you think of the white-collar sweatshops that are the Big 4, “creative” doesn’t come to mind, like, not at all, and you can kinda read between the lines of what Mansfield says.

“There’s a limit to the type of creative work you can do in the big four model. You can do the replicable creative work but you can’t do the higher-order stuff.

“If you are at peak intensity all day, there’s no time for the peaks and troughs that the true creative process requires. What you end up doing is taking off the peaks to meet the intensity.”

She said that the “radical, higher-order creative work” is incompatible with the level of work that staff are expected to charge to clients at a big four firm.

Mansfield isn’t the only Green Dot consultant who has left the bland-white walls of a Big 4 firm to join an Omnicom-owned agency, according to the AFR. Nathan Birch, CEO of Interbrand in Sydney, Australia, used to work for Deloitte Digital, and Mansfield took over as managing director of Interbrand from another Deloitte alum, Davy Rennie, who is moving to digital agency Tribal as national managing director.

Perhaps this quote from Mansfield is the most damning when it comes to the Big 4 firms sapping the creativity out of their employees:

The big four “are built to deliver constant output” and “others in the broader business did not understand about the creative process or the way we needed to work”.

“Staring at a wall, or chatting through an idea adds value to creativity, but because it doesn’t always appear productive, it is not always respected,” she said.

So, let me get this straight: If you’re not staring at your computer all day, chained to your desk, or if you’re talking to other members of your team, trying to come up with fresh, new ideas to make your firm not look like a stale piece of bread, then you’re not being productive. Got it.

I guess Life at Deloitte isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.