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Creative Professionals Trapped in an Echo Chamber, New Research Reveals

Shaping Ideas More Dependent on Diversity of Work and Personal Experience than Racial or Gender Factors


Alicia Stetzer                                                   Mark Stuart
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NEW YORK and CANNES, France, June 19, 2017 – According to new research, the echo chamber created when like-minded people self-segregate and embrace information and ideas that support their opinions and beliefs is not only solidifying polarized views in society, but also impeding creativity. Leading global communications firm Ketchum engaged Fast Company, the world's leading progressive business media brand, to survey creative professionals about unconscious bias, insularity and sources of creative inspiration. More than half (54 percent) of those surveyed admit creative professionals work in echo chambers. Of those who think there is an echo chamber, most blame conversations with peers that confirm and align with their beliefs and assumptions (91 percent) and news that confirms and aligns with their beliefs and assumptions (91 percent) as leading causes.

Fielded in advance of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the Creative Echo Chamber survey uncovered an important gap – while 71 percent of respondents say diversity of thought is valued by their organizations, 85 percent believe organizations must do more to encourage a diversity of ideas. To break free of echo chambers, respondents say it is most important to interact with people who challenge their beliefs and assumptions (95 percent) and learn about cultures that challenge their beliefs and assumptions (94 percent). Interestingly, race and gender are on the bottom of the list of variables that impact how creative ideas are developed and chosen, with personal experience (87 percent) topping the list in shaping creative ideas, and work experience (70 percent) and personal experience (61 percent) mattering most in choosing ideas. By contrast, 25 percent say race and 26 percent say gender impact shaping ideas; only 11 percent say race and 15 percent say gender matters in choosing ideas.

“This survey is a wake-up call,” said Karen Strauss, partner and chief strategy and creativity officer at Ketchum. “The effect social media has had on limiting interactions with people who disagree with us and filtering information so it confirms existing views extends to our creative process. These findings underscore the need to seek and embrace dissent to break free of conformity and groupthink.”

Achieving Cultural Diversity

Survey participants offered concrete suggestions for diversifying creative talent and opinions within organizations. Recommendations most often cited were to make diversity hiring goals more explicit; end nepotism, cronyism and referral-based hiring; hire for curiosity over experience; hire from outside the industry; recruit internationally; eliminate insider jargon from employment ads; and increase blind hiring practices.

“The outpouring of ideas for bringing cultural diversity into the workplace is good news for business,” said Robert Safian, editor of Fast Company. “The survey respondents see that working alongside people just like themselves limits creative potential, and to get outside our bubbles, we have to build teams from varying socioeconomic, educational and geographic backgrounds.”

Whose Voices Are Being Heard?

The survey set out to understand who holds sway within organizations in shaping and choosing the ideas that get implemented. Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents said that creative professionals with 10 or more years of experience held more weight in choosing ideas than did those with less experience; only 20 percent said that junior creative talent has a lot of influence in choosing ideas. Yet, 73 percent of respondents say it is junior professionals who offer the braver ideas, reflecting another opportunity for challenging likeminded groupthink.

Perhaps more importantly, many creative professionals are not engaging the intended audience in the creation and development of ideas. Only 9 percent of creative professionals always tap their target audience while strategizing (and 48 percent never do), and only 9 percent always engage their target audience in the creative process.

“With crowdsourcing so easy, and multicultural opinions so accessible, this finding was possibly the most surprising,” said Strauss. “Because respondents did tell us they use research for shaping and choosing ideas, it’s curious that they are not addressing the echo chamber they say exists by bringing real consumers into the creative process.”

The Role of Age and Gender in Creative Echo Chambers

Only slight differences exist in how the generations perceive the existence of a creative echo chamber. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of Gen X-ers believe the creative echo chamber exists, while half of Millennials (54 percent) and Boomers (52 percent) agree. When asked what factors contribute to the shaping of ideas, each generation ranked personal experiences No. 1 (91 percent of Millennials, 83 percent of Gen X and 84 percent of Boomers). However, when it comes to selecting ideas, Millennials favor data (75 percent), Gen X-ers rely on customer feedback (76 percent) and Boomers cite work experience (68 percent).

Interestingly, the younger generations are more inclined to think diversity is valued within their organization – 71 percent of Millennials and 74 percent of Gen X-ers believe diversity of thought is valued in their company, compared with 67 percent of Boomers. Younger creative professionals also are more inclined to think campaign ideas are shaped and determined by people with diverse backgrounds (70 percent of Millennials, 66 percent of Gen X-ers and 57 percent of Boomers). Very little difference was noted between men and women related to echo chamber perceptions. Asked who provides braver ideas – men or women – two-thirds of men (61 percent) say it’s men, and two-thirds of women (65 percent) say it’s women.

Implications of the Fast Company and Ketchum Creative Echo Chamber survey will be debated at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity during a panel moderated by Fast Company editor Robert Safian on June 21. Panelists, including Karen Strauss, partner, chief strategy and creativity officer, Ketchum; Karan Dang, director, digital creative, The Walt Disney Company; James DeJulio, co-founder, president and chief creative officer, Tongal; and Tiffany R. Warren, senior vice president and chief diversity officer, Omnicom Group; will address how dissent and diversity can end creative homogeneity.


Ketchum engaged Fast Company to tap into its network of creative professionals. An online survey was administered to 500 respondents, all of whom are actively working in a creative field or department. Survey respondents were recruited through various methods including a live event where they were provided a web address, a curated newsletter list, and through industry-targeted banners on and Fast Company social networks. Respondents were entered into a drawing as compensation for their time. The survey was conducted from May 16 to May 26, 2017. The margin of error is +/-4.38 percent at the 95 percent confidence level for the total sample.

About Fast Company
Fast Company is the world’s leading progressive business media brand, inspiring a new breed of innovative and creative thought leadership, who are actively inventing the future of business. Fast Company believes that business is the primary vehicle for progress and positive change in the world, and encourages businesses and people in business to lean into it. Fast Company was named Adweek’s 2016 Hotlist Winner for Hottest Business Publication. In 2014, the magazine was Adweek’s Hotlist Winner for Hottest Business Publication, the Reader’s Choice Award Winner for Hottest Magazine of the Year, and ASME’s Magazine of the Year. Throughout its history, Fast Company has received over 50 Society of Publication Design Awards.

About Ketchum
Ketchum is a leading global communications firm with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. The winner of 19 Cannes Lions and an unprecedented five PRWeek Campaign of the Year Awards, Ketchum partners with clients to deliver strategic programming, game-changing creative and measurable results that build brands and reputations. For more information on Ketchum, a part of Omnicom Public Relations Group, visit

About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group
 is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, fashion, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,000 public relations professionals in more than 330 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.


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