I am very much looking forward to winding down over the holiday period. Our office will be closed from December 21 until January 14. It’s a nice, long break where we can all spend some much needed time with our loved ones.
This week I’ve had to deal with a daughter who is about to finish primary school and enter into high school - it’s a challenge I’m finding difficult to navigate for the things she will face as she enters into a new chapter in her life; and I also have a heart filled with pride and admiration for her because I know how resilient and capable she is.
It had me thinking of my own journey through my teens, navigating high school bullies, school sports (I was crap) and cliques that made me feel isolated and out of touch — I wasn't one of the cool kids you see.
Fast forward to yesterday and I had a very pointed conversation with a young Designer, two years in to her career about the cliques that exist in our own industry that perpetuate the same outcomes.
Isolation, exclusion and above all — stifling the potential of younger Designers and those that don't necessarily fit the mould.
Cliques exist everywhere in our industry — and even though some are friendship groups that are well-meaning and positive — they're more destructive than they are helpful.
They can say 'you're not cool enough' with a friendly smile. They can say 'you don't dress like us' and 'aren't invited to this cool gallery opening' because 'you're not like us' — without meaning to do so.
They're in the gatherings on Twitter where the same group of people swap ironies, wittiness and pats on one another's backs.
They're in the same faces that appear on the speaker and podcast interview circuit.
They're in the time slots where most 'industry get togethers' are organised, isolating those that choose not to, or simply can't, go out for Friday night drinks each time the industry gathers.
They're in the agism that exists in the lack of representation of 'older' creative leaders.
They're in the same demographic slices who can afford to do free internships whilst the majority of the industry wanders why.
They're in the invisible walls put up when the same old "studios" are held up, again and again as shining examples.
Cliques aren't healthy and in some way, they're not deliberate — they're a form of unconscious bias, because most of us aspire to something and someone. It's in our own awareness of them even when we're in them — to acknoweldge that some people will see it as a barrier not an inclusive, welcoming group to be a part of.
In some cases they're very deliberate and this should be the elephant we point to, when we're in the room.
I'm also very aware that my own business, and platform within this journal creates some type of clique or barrier to overcome. But believe me, it's this very barrier that I seek to shatter in the work I do in creative leadership.
The reality is, we're all different — we're not the same — and in these differences we have the ability to grow.
It took me a while through my high school years of bullying and nervous, teenage angst to realise that I was happy wearing my metal t-shirts in high school when the rest of the kids were dressed in 'cooler clothes'. I was happy with my name (Dimitri) and my long, South-Eastern European surname. I was happy with my weaknesses and was aware of my own imposter syndrome. I realised that cliques weren't for me because in the end — they were all groups of people who were clones of one another and I wasn't interested in being the same.
It's this that drives me.
I'm happy with different — we grow because of 'different'.