What does creativity cost?

When BT brought forward its plan to deliver superfast broadband to two-thirds of the UK, moving the deadline from 2015 to 2014, it decided on a creative twist to its usual recruitment strategy by employing more than 700 soldiers who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The targeted recruitment drive was based on the belief that the ex-armed forces personnel possessed the necessary skills to perform complex network installation tasks and could operate speedily and efficiently.

The decommissioned soldiers were placed on the frontline of the project to upgrade the country’s telecoms network from copper to fibre optic cables that can support superfast broadband services.

Joe McDavid, retail HR director at BT, explains: “Ex-armed forces people are highly skilled, motivated and disciplined, which means we are able to train them up quickly and get them straight out where we need them.” The recruitment policy was successfully adopted without BT increasing its £2.5bn budget for the upgrade.

Ogilvy vice-chairman Rory Sutherland says that creativity is the perfect tool for brands to achieve their aims when there is no money available. He notes:

“Creativity is often seen as an extravagant luxury, self-indulgence. The reality is that the best creative thinkers spend most of their time asking questions like ‘does the project need this?’ and ‘can it work without that?’”

In the case of BT, being creative has resulted in rolling out a project in less time with no extra money. Recruiting ex-soldiers has saved the business enormous amounts of money. As Sutherland puts it: “If you think creativity is expensive, you should try logic.”

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