Keeping up with creativity — and building trust within a narrative strategy team

Image via ThinkStock

I lead a team of creative strategists with different skills and experience levels — some are content strategists and writers, one is an academic researcher with a prestigious PhD, others are front- and back-end developers, others are web producers, others are UX designers. Everyone is a part-time and amateur data analyst. We’re a team that sometimes functions in a cohesive, agile way if we’re working on re-launching a site. Or we split up on various editorial and digital projects, from supporting executive speeches to creating interactive experiences to hosting international content workshops.

Often, we need to be able to produce quick narratives — for either internal presentations or external content. And often, the person we need is too busy to help.

So now instead of relying on the team member who has video or audio editing skills, Illustrator or Photoshop skills, or data analysis skills, or writing and editing skills, or HTML or Javascript skills — we are teaching each other. We’ve created an informal “Tutorial at 2pm” session each month to keep up with creativity as individuals and team mates. My newest full-time programming hire, one of the first graduates of IBM’s P-Tech program, which offers the opportunity for high-school kids to earn a combined high school and associate’s degree in computer science, led the first session. He’s all of 18 years old. He taught our team how to quickly create and edit videos of web site demos, without having to use any sort of additional programs other than the Quicktime and iMovie already on our Macs. And now we don’t have to ask him as an “emergency” to do so. This experience built his own narrative skills, as well as his budding professional confidence.

Next up: our senior content strategist and UX expert (we wear numerous hats!) is going to give us a 1/2 hour tutorial on specific Illustrator skills we need to complete the projects we’re working on currently.

Our “Tutorial at 2pm” — we’re starting to nickname it our 2-torial, thanks to the aforementioned senior content strategist — is just one of a few rituals I’ve found to be really helpful and fun for the teams I’ve managed. In the past here at IBM Studios, I’ve started rituals like “Story and a Snack” (which got my previous team to get to know each other well and fast, and boosted our trust in each other, not to mention show off our cooking skills and recipes that reflected a variety of international cultures). And a former agile coach for another previous team started a “Song of the Day” ritual that was an excellent ice-breaker (as well as playlist builder). Both may seem cutesy, but they were helpful in getting new teams to know each other, to practice giving impromptu, cohesive narratives in front of a group, and to be creative together as a team, quickly. These were all important factors in meeting demanding deadlines that didn’t leave time for long team-building exercises.

Our current team’s 2-torial sessions promise to be even more memorable…because those memories will include new and useful skills.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.