During a recent MarketingProfs webinar, sponsored by OpenText Hightail, I spoke about some of the trials and tribulations of trying to collaborate creatively. When we got to the Q&A portion of the webinar, the dashboard lit up with many iterations of the same basic four questions. Since they’re obviously top of mind for many creative collaborators, I thought I would share my answers to those four burning questions here.
How do you foster collaboration when people are working remotely?
First off, you need to make sure you’re enabling your teams with the right technology. This is critical for a remote workforce. This could mean using solutions like Hightail for creative reviews, Slack for messaging and Zoom for virtual meetings. Identify which tools are critical for distributed collaboration and invest in them.
One of the most important things, however, is that we need to meet face-to-face, whether it’s once a year or every few months. We need to establish some sort of connection with people, so that we can build trust and a personal relationship—and I just think we trust people better that way.
It’s not just one thing, though. Try a million different things, and then figure out which ones work for the group.
How do you deal with a negative team member who is not a team player?
If it’s a senior person who you report to, then you either look for a different job or you convince that person on the merits of collaboration by demonstrating how collaboration has made the work that you create better. So if they give you a task, you go away and you collaborate with interesting people. And then when they realize it’s great work, you explain that the reason it’s so great is because several people provided perspectives you hadn’t thought of before.
If it’s somebody on your team, then you create a workaround, just like in every other aspect of your life. For example, you could just not invite them and say it’s because they seemed too busy: “We’ve started thinking, and we’ll loop you in when it seems important.”
Or the art of story can be really powerful for bringing people in, when you can share the story about what the process was like: “There was this one time we had this initiative and we would have been dead in the water, when Frank from IT brought in …” Using stories over and over again that people can relate to can tap into their fear of looking foolish.
How do you ensure everyone’s voice is heard during collaboration?
There are really two things worth mentioning here:
- Collaboration isn’t about getting approval. And you don’t need to go around the room and hear every voice, because you’re not seeking their approval.
- The reason everyone is in the room, however, is that they bring a very unique perspective—and maybe you do want to hear that perspective. An old stand-up comedian trick is to go into the audience and ask, “what do you do?” or “where are you from?” Collaborate in the same way, but make sure you ask very pointed questions. “What was the most important insight that our Facebook users contribute to the community? Is it that they’re really frustrated with our customer service? What is it?” If they’re not going to talk, they’re not going to be a great contributor, and then you just don’t invite them next time. There’s nothing wrong with that.
How do you manage time between collaborating and actually getting the work done?
Today’s really become a world of “management by reply all.” We say we don’t have time to collaborate, yet we sit at our desk and we write novellas to everyone on our team through email. There are a million other things we’re not efficient at. The first rule of efficient collaboration is to become really efficient at everything else we’re doing, because there aren’t more hours in the day.
The way you know creative collaboration is taking too long is when you haven’t met your deadlines. You need to establish those in the rules of engagement up front, and you need to hit those deadlines along the way. You need a leader for this who can extend those deadlines if need be, but somebody has to own it, and somebody has to make that call.
For more of my take on War and Peace in Creative Collaboration, please watch the webinar on demand.
About Ron Tite, Guest Author
Ron Tite is Founder and CEO of Church & State, a content marketing agency based in Toronto. His work has been recognized by The London International Advertising Awards, The New York Festivals of Advertising, The Crystals, The Extras, The Canadian Marketing Association, and The Marketing Awards, to name just a few. His book, Everyone’s An Artist (Or At Least They Should Be), was recently published by HarperCollins