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How Dan Wieden Is Trying to Create a Diverse Workplace (To Get Diverse Ideas) at His Groundbreaking Ad Agency

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One of the founders of Wieden and Kennedy noticed that the faces in his office looked remarkably similar. He's set out to fix that.

At independent advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, the likenesses of every individual employee climb the walls and line the halls of the offices. In the recesses of Portland, Oregon, these employees band together as a group to solve problems and flourish, much like slime mold does. At first glance, the two may seem unrelated; however, slime mold are individual organisms that can cluster to move together as a single body to reach the food or light source they need to thrive. As the body grows, it throws off more spores and multiplies. Co-founder and chairman Dan Wieden believes it's the ideal metaphor for the way W+K operates.

"How do you create a culture where people are encouraged to be fully and absolutely themselves to explore all the attics and corners in their minds and hearts," Wieden says. "And at the same time work alongside a lot of other very strong personalities to solve problems."

Creating that culture and community has been Wieden's focus since his epiphany about his role a few years after opening the agency. "This thing isn't about you and it isn't about David [Kennedy, Wieden's co-partner]," Wieden recalls. "Your job is to create a place where people can live up to their potential."

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