Richard Branson recently made a stir with his announcement that Virgin employees could take as much leave as they wanted. This got me thinking about an equally counter-intuitive work practice that has benefitted the Black Swan creative team – knocking-off on time (sorry Dolly, we work 9-5:30!). I recognise there’s some irony in the idea that leaving work on time is unusual, but for huge swathes of the media industry it still is.

It’s true, as a team we have diverse out-of work interests (listed below) that can’t be pursued if we are stuck at the office, but this isn’t why we like to down tools timeously – no, results have simply shown that we work better when we work quicker (or perhaps we work quicker when we work better).

For many agencies, however, working quicker just means working longer; with every waking (and not so waking) moment thrown at completing the task on time. While we’re never opposed to pulling an all-nighter, we prefer to work more efficiently, we call it ‘Going Commando’!

An apology first, ‘Going Commando’ borrows shamelessly from the Wikipedia entry for the Special Air Service, because just like the SAS (but without the guns) we are a small, elite unit who thrive on undertaking unconventional missions. Also, to join the SAS you need to possess a certain set of qualities, qualities we also value here at Black Swan:

1. Mental Robustness


It doesn’t matter how big the challenge (or, occasionally, how harsh the criticism), our commitment and passion for producing great work is constant.

2: Self Confidence


Challenging conventional wisdom and breaking new ground requires a lot of confidence. It’s not about swagger, we’ll leave that to other agencies, it’s about self-belief.

3: Self Discipline


Each and every member of the team is trusted to do their job at a consistently high level – without constant nagging and pestering. That includes making fresh coffee each morning!

4: The Ability To Work Alone


Collaboration is essential, but so is the ability to work independently, manage your own time and be accountable for everything you produce. We are a family, but we won’t hold your hand!

5: The Ability To Assimilate New Information & Skills


New information feeds innovation, and it feeds us too. We pride ourselves on our ability to take on new ideas and skills, and to always be at the forefront of our industry.

Keep The Needle To The Left


In summary, we produce our best work when operating as an elite unit on specialised missions. We work fast, strive for excellence and aim to get it right first time. That’s what ‘Going Commando’ is all about.

So why is this approach a little different to other creative agencies, and why does it matter for our clients? Well, firstly, technology and the way people interact with brands and products is changing so fast, a delay of days or weeks could mean a missed opportunity. Secondly, this pace is very often reflected in our clients’ workload, and we want to make their lives easier – and we find the best way to do this is to work fast, strive for excellence and get it right first time!

Black Swan Creative Team extracurricular interests:

Lara is part of an alternative choir collective. Bjorn develops infuriatingly difficult iOS games. Will composes electronic music. Ross hand builds bespoke acoustic equipment. Umit loves to breakdance, and I recently authored and illustrated a craft book for Dads.

Scott loves to makes things – whether it’s a data inspired digital experience for one of the world’s most loved brands, a best selling book aimed at getting Dads to make ‘cool stuff’, or an illustrated project for his award winning blog. It’s this approach that has helped him win business, win followers and win awards. Fun fact: As a kid he won a national drawing competition and was invited to the Take Hart studios to meet Tony Hart, but was left devastated when told he couldn’t meet Morph!​