Nick Garrett on the fluidity at Deloitte and why creative problem solving is so important globally

Just over a year into his gig at Deloitte Digital, Nick Garrett has gone global. Speaking to Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan, he tells why the number one task remains to make Deloitte more creative, and how Australia has been a global leader in realising where the consultancy model can go.

“Our number one KPI is to help make Deloitte more creative, by adding creativity to how we solve client problems,” says Nick Garrett, whose remit was recently fast-tracked global just a year into his time at Deloitte Digital.

The job has been “very true to the pitch”, yet the pitch itself was somewhat of a blank canvas, with “more freedom to evolve and innovate than one could understand”.

But even at a global level, the focus remains clear: to inject creative thinking into all parts of the business.

Speaking to Mumbrella shortly after joining the digital consultancy, Garrett said he learned more in his 18-or-so months out of the game than he did in the decade prior, and that learning curve has steepened since then.

“It’s humbling and inspiring being in rooms with very smart people all the time who are teaching you new things”, versus the roles he has held in the past.

This isn’t a slight on agencyland though, just a change in expectation since his days running them.

“When you’re a leader of an agency, everyone thinks you’ve got all the answers. You don’t. We know that, and you have to have the humility to say that out loud.”

“I now work in an environment where I have far more people around me now to ask questions of, to ask the help of, and to solve problems together, and I really, really like that.”

From Australia, to the world

Garrett notes that the Australian unit has been seen as a global leader for some time before his arrival: “we should all remember Deloitte Digital was launched in Australia, and in Melbourne 12 years ago”.

Locally, it has given inspiration to the rest of Deloitte worldwide on “what to build and how to go to market”.

“They’ve been able to inject the creative thinking further and deeper into their core offering and into consulting outside of just core digital earlier than anyone else, and they’ve hired people at the business end of creativity.”

“And I think those people are able to plug in and make big impacts in a more significant way.”

While a smaller market, “it’s not a test market”, he says. “It doesn’t feel small when you’re here,” with around 12,000 across Deloitte in Australia alone, and around 1,400 within the Digital operation.

“Unlike larger markets, so we can put smart teams together quicker, and we can be more agile around client problems.”

“It’s a place where you can experiment in innovating and I think we’ve taken advantage of it, and exported a lot of that thinking and IP.”

Asked about the consultancies generally in Australia, it has been ahead of the curve in harnessing creative talent, and there were two key examples in 2017 that hinted at where the wind was blowing for creative consultancies.

Adrian Mills and Matt Lawson: ‘Pioneers’

Garrett gives credit to his creative partners Matt Lawson, and Adrian Mills as well as Dave Phillips, who he calls “pioneers” after being poached by the consultancy in 2017 from McCann.

“I am one of Matt’s best mates, but at the time of hearing his news, my eyebrow still went up and I was thinking ‘shit, they’re going to Deloitte’.”

This came only a few months after Accenture’s purchase of the Monkeys too – which he says was immense news reported around the world, and again something Garrett says “you have to give credit to Mark [Green], Scott [Newell] and Justin [Drape] for the bold leap they made”.

“Droga was bought later, it wasn’t like they were bought after Droga. What they did, and what Matt, Adrian, and Dave did to drive the understanding of where consultancies could take this model has been so far ahead of the rest of the world and I think massive credit to those six or seven people.”

The Monkeys, bought by Accenture in 2017


The key to Deloitte’s success, he says, has been hiring people that can talk creatively or strategically through a business lens, versus through a communications lens.

“This is the heart of Deloitte’s differentiation. They’ve got deep business strategy, subject matter experts, tech and creative thinking, all sitting together, and I can’t imagine another way to do it.”

“Hence why the appetite for creativity to be a thread across all the business is huge.”

I just can’t imagine how another consultancy would have its creative people in one building, the business strategy guys in another building, and tech people operating in different units.

“I don’t know how you collaborate, inspire each other, teach each other, and learn from each other.”

“The really hard part isn’t hiring smart people or buying brilliant companies, its actually getting them excited about working together, seeing how they’re connected, inputs can make a better output, and they can do work that matters.”

Garrett says there is more fluidity in the consultancy than he could have imagined, which is far less obvious until you’re inside it.

“The ability to go upstream strategically is more abundantly clear than I realised. The need to think bigger about the strategic opportunity is very clear, and they were very clear that we had to sell creativity and brand as a business strategy internally.”

2023 and placing big bets

Talk about marketing budgets tightening, consumers watching their wallets as rate rises continue and uncertainty heading into 2023 is rife amongst the industry, with several agencies seeing cuts in order to ‘align with client needs’.

“If I look at the year, is there uncertainty because of budgets? Yes. Is there uncertainty because of turbulent times? Yes.”

There is opportunity there though, for those that are willing to take it according to Garrett.

“Some businesses used COVID as an accelerator for change, as a time to do their spring cleaning, audit the business, get prepared, and invest in things that matter so they’re match fit.”

“I can see a huge amount of optimism from the more pioneering clients because they see change as a chance to shift the market dynamics, force change within their own organizations in a positive way, and to be far more aggressive and innovate.”

“You’re either in it to win it, or you’re in it not to lose,” he says, recalling an American turn-of-phrase. “If you are in it to win it… the turbulent times ahead are interesting.”

“Even the most challenged legacy businesses have an opportunity to rewrite their future, and if they find the right balance of technology and creativity to innovate their business models, there is a lot to be excited about.”


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