I don’t think any good ideas ever came from someone working by themselves. To me, the creative process is collaboration.
Few things are as enjoyable as when people start bouncing ideas off each other and end up with something better than anyone could have thought up on their own. But it’s not like you can always simply flip a switch and start doing it, so I have been putting some thought into how to make it happen more often.
Here’s what I’ve learnt: collaboration has to be infused into the culture of a company. And I believe it has to come from the C-Suite.
If chief marketing officers and agency CEOs don’t communicate — with actions more than words — that the company values great results above individual contributions, people will become defensive and afraid to share their best ideas.
That’s where collaboration languishes and dies. Below are my five tips on how to collaborate better.
1. Do it from the start
Right from the beginning, when defining the brief, agency and client should be poring over sales data and research documents together.
Taking the time to discuss what the challenge is, without feeling pressured to know the answer from the start.
Different perspectives will give you a fuller understanding of the problem. We get the best results when we begin projects with a full team kick-off session to write the brief as one team together and brainstorm potential thought-starters.
2. Embrace beta
The brief-develop-present-feedback cycle can be very long and it reinforces the separation between client and agency.
The upside of it is that it hides the messy bits. It feels slick. However if both client and agency adopt a beta mindset, sharing work earlier and developing it together, can save a lot of time. I’ll admit it’s easier said than done.
Having conversations about work no one is sure about yet sometimes feels chaotic, but in my experience it can take you to interesting places quicker.
3. Spend more time together
Nothing beats face-to-face collaboration and this time can be more productive for the whole team. Naturally, regular check-ins via phone or video keep the project on track and at pace.
Spending a bit of time socialising doesn’t hurt either. It builds two things that are crucial for collaboration: familiarity and trust. The more comfortable you feel the easier it is to share ideas and listen to feedback.
4. Share everything
Share your agenda. Be open about what it is you really want to achieve, even if they’re personal goals. Be upfront about the type of relationship you want to have.
Agencies: don’t let the planner sit on a key insight until the final presentation. CMOs: impart all the knowledge you have, both in and outside of the marketing department, from market research to customer anecdotes. Agencies can only be as good as the brief they’re given.
5. Let technology help you
Your laptop can help you collaborate too. At Forever Beta, we use Google Apps for Work. We can work on the same presentation at the same time (with clients adding and commenting in real-time). It has fundamentally changed the way we collaborate with clients and colleagues.
And there you have it. It’s simple, but not easy. Make these a priority though and I guarantee you’ll have better work and more laughs in 2016.