Agency: noun or verb?

I’ve been thinking about and working with, agencies lately: ad agencies, design agencies, innovation agencies…

In this context, an agency generally means “people who can do the things you can’t, or don’t want to do”.

Which is fine, if that’s really what you want – as in, I hate doing this, please take it away and do it for me.

But often in life, we say that’s what we want, and then it turns out that we want a bit more control. We have opinions of our own about it, and probably some latent capacity to do it ourselves. If this isn’t recognised there are all sorts of risks. The client gives too much power to the agency which turns into the Pied Piper, leaving the client bereft and exploited. Or the agency can’t deliver, leading to frustration of another kind – I could have done this better myself!

Hence all the talk about the desirability of co-creation.

Maybe we need to go back to the idea of agency from philosophy – the capacity of an entity to act in any given environment. Do you want

agency, verb – and therefore maybe some people who will help you develop your own capacity to act, or

an agency, noun people to do it for you?

I suspect an awful lot of grief in agency-client relationships arises when these choices aren’t explored.

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