MIKE ABEL

FOUNDING PARTNER: CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, M&C SAATCHI GROUP SOUTH AFRICA

" A CANDLE LOSES NOTHING BY LIGHTING ANOTHER CANDLE. WE SHOULD ALL BE CANDLES AND USE OUR FLAMES TO LIGHT AS MANY AS WE CAN."

- MIKE ABEL, FOUNDING PARTNER: CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, M&C SAATCHI GROUP SOUTH AFRICA

Innovation for innovation sake has absolutely no purpose. It requires direction. It needs to convey a message, inspire curiosity, drive real change, shape the future, and influence action. It must have meaning. Combine this with entrepreneurship, and suddenly the world moves forward.

Innovation thrives when curious and imaginative people ask the right questions and are able to anticipate what may not currently be there, but is likely to unlock opportunity or solve a problem. I find the limitless possibility of the Metaverse to be the epitome of innovation. The seamless interplay between our digital lives and our physical lives is wildly exciting.

I seldom find myself satisfied with the status quo. I draw inspiration from observing human behaviour and then solving basic human problems by unlocking solutions. The M&C Saatchi Abel Street Store is one of the greatest examples of this. The Street Store, a not for profit movement created and run by the agency, is the world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free pop-up clothing store for the homeless. It has to date clothed over 500,000 homeless people around the world. This is the kind of disruptive and innovative thinking that can change the world.

In terms of business, innovative thinking was crucial in starting an agency during a recession in an over-traded industry with powerful and established competitors. Many believed the odds were stacked against us. But we had a big bold dream which was never to be a landing strip to land small planes, but rather to bring to life a different, top heavy model made up of senior and experienced contributors that clients wanted to collaborate, create and build enduring partnerships with. But it took two years to build that international airport where we could land the A380’s that I envisioned, so we had to tether ourselves to the mast and ride the storm with the belief that the only option would be to come out on the other side in one piece.

As a society we have the responsibility to harness the collective power of curiosity and imagination to find the solution for what is unquestionably South Africa’s largest challenge – unemployment. We can no longer look towards government for solutions, but must rather shift our focus because the only way forward is through economic growth. This will be driven by the people who have great ideas. If people are brilliant then we must behind them, socially and economically. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. We should all be candles and use our flames to light as many as we can. The flint that ignites those flames? Innovation.

M&C SAATCHI GROUP SA

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