Agile content

Recently, I went to an agile content workshop run by Jonathan Kahn from Together London. He teaches people who work in content how to reframe problems as opportunities for integration.

In other words, take the obstacle and turn it into a principle.

People who work in content need to be able to effectively overcome the nuances and challenges that come with implementing digital content strategy in organisations. Within the discipline, there are many barriers to change to overcome. To effectively overcome the barriers, we need to find a new, agile way of working.

Jonathan–along with his agile content conference collaborators–believe this can be learned through tools and techniques that turn stakeholders into allies and collaborators.

A lot of the ideas and techniques to do with agile content strategy are applicable to general life, it felt like the ideas and techniques to get ‘buy-in’ for your content would also help you achieve your life goals and become a better negotiator. Here are a few pearls of wisdom / tools / techniques I learned during the day:

  1. Even when we think we’re being collaborative, we’re not.

“Let me know your thoughts”

“I’d like to hear your feedback”

What we’re really saying with comments like this is, “Agree with what I’ve done”. This is confirmation bias (a whole other story) and not genuine collaboration.

To be truly collaborative, we need to be aligned around shared goals. In order to get a shared goal, we must first identify a solution in which both sides get what they want.

Acknowledge and embrace differences in opinion. With differing opinions comes innovation and new thinking.

2. Compromise is when both sides lose.

When we have conflict of opinion at work (or anywhere), both sides have their pain points and their ideal solution. The problem is that both sides see any solution other than the one they want as losing.

For example: one of the people in the workshop was a senior digital editor for a charity, she is constantly in conflict with the policy team in her organisation–they want editorial control over their portion of the content, and she wants all the writing on the company website to be consistent and to adhere to the same voice. They can’t agree because the solution for both sides is for the other side to back down and allow them to ‘own’ the content.

In this situation, compromise means both sides lose.

So what do they need to do?

Invent a third way.

Building a solution looks like this:

1. decide on what unites you rather than divides you

2. pick an underlying principle that will command your new way of working e.g. we want our content to be consistent and useful to our audience

3. create a new collaborative way of working based on this principle

3. Your pain points are a reason not to try.

What’s stopping you achieving what you want?

We made a list of all the obstacles that would stop us taking what we learned and implementing them in our content work. Things like:

takes time to introduce

will be hard to get stakeholders time

can’t prove the problem in numbers, so people won’t believe it is

it will take organisational change

just our team’s issue, will be hard to get buy-in

Jonathan then told us to look at our pain points and acknowledge these were all reasons why we wouldn’t try or succeed. By acknowledging this, you can choose to overcome the pain points before they stop you.

4. Leave your comfort zone.

And take your stakeholders with you.

Often, when we face challenges around content creation (and any argument in your life), it’s because we’re not sharing reality with the other party.

One method to start sharing a reality and therefore becoming more aligned, is to leave your comfort zones and work together in a new way.

For example, a writer used to working alone could start to pair write with another person. This would then result in content that both parties have contributed to and are happy with. Another method would be to do user research together. That way you share experiences and start to see the reality of the challenge in the same way.

The workshop was an invaluable way to learn more about collaboration within content strategy. We learned how to overcome barriers to change and how to share the same perspective with our stakeholders. Watch videos from the agile content conference here for inspiring stories on finding breakthrough content solutions.