What's age got to do with it? Michael Knox, ECD, Icon Agency

This article was originally published in The Stable.

Age isn’t a disability (although it is treated as one), or the creative industry would have embraced it. Odd, isn’t it? The industry flies the flag, loud and proud, for diversity. 21% of Australia’s population is uninvited. So here’s a series to counter stereotypes with reality. To defy disdain for age. To show that experience is not a hindrance.

I think you should know that there were people afraid to participate in this series. That is shameful. Michael Knox, executive creative director of Icon Agency, wasn’t. Chris Dodds, co-founder and head of digital, Icon Agency, explains why he has no need to be, “From the day we hired Michael, we knew we’d made the right decision. He’s a safe pair of hands ready to catch and craft any brief. Calm when the pressure is on. Adept at questioning, challenging and nurturing ideas safely and inclusively. Always sharing ideas and being able to see and get the best out of others. We are lucky to have him running our creative team.”

Here is a snapshot of what makes Michael Knox an asset to the industry:

You spent nearly ten years in top creative roles at each of Grey Aus/China and Ogilvy Aus. What do you think it takes to be a great creative leader?

Michael Knox: Belief. Create a culture of belief. Belief is energy. Have belief in yourself. If you don’t, no-one else will. Experience helps here. Even though time is the enemy – you learn there’s always more, until there isn’t. On paper the job is simple – create an environment where people can make the best work of their lives. Speed up anything that makes this possible and eliminate everything that stands in its way. You’re the accelerator or the brake. Choose your pedal wisely. Rhetoric aside, get the casting right. It’s all about who you put in the room. Have a strict no d#*kheads policy. Put your best people on the biggest opportunity, shield them from any distractions and push, push, push to make epic work that gets the world talking.

A year ago, you joined Icon in a top creative role. How has the role changed?

Michael Knox: It’s a lot about connection now. The role has become a lot less about ripping up layouts and a lot more about collaboration. Connecting people with great ideas and leading projects that connect our teams. Not that I tore up many layouts. It’s a regular topic of conversation that there’s very little training for creatives to become creative directors, but 20 years in I don’t have that excuse, and fortunately the experiences that I’ve had over the years mean I don’t need them. The role has changed a lot and on some days not at all. Some rooms have open doors and others you need to pick the lock.

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