A Culture of Collaboration

In branding and marketing strategy – as with many other industries – collaborative efforts typically have far better results than projects handled by only one person. However, collaboration has turned into a service-based cultural buzzword seen all over the place (a little like innovation). It’s an elusive achievement that many don’t fully understand.

When most companies need branding work, they first think about finding the right designer for the job. A great designer is definitely capable of creating a solid design but cannot do all the heavy lifting about strategy and planning.

Creating an award-winning design or campaign is a team effort. Most people are unaware of many parts of developing a brand, especially if the goal is to create an outstanding final product. This is where the benefit of working with a creative agency comes in.

#1: Be Agile

The agency or team must be nimble in their ability to move from idea to concept – being inclusive of the whole team, as innovation can come from any level. Veering away from a traditional hierarchical structure will allow a greater chance for a truly collaborative environment to be fostered.

#2: Mix It Up

The goal of the collaboration is to deliver a better product than you would have on your own. Committing to a culture of diversity within the life of a project and throughout the team or agency will bring differing opinions, perspectives and outcomes. When building a team of stakeholders for a project, ensuring that as many departments or backgrounds are present and utilized – relative to the needs of the job at hand – will ensure an optimal product.

#3: Understand the End Goal

With so many opinions and egos in any given creative process – a team must work together to understand the true goal of the project. When kicking off a job, clearly working through the project’s requirements to determine the best route is of the utmost importance. As we all know, many projects take a right and left turns, changing course almost constantly, so a creative brief can go a long way in getting everyone on the same page about the initial goals.

#3: Listen

(Most) Everyone wants to be heard. This is a common fact, particularly in the creative industry. However, a few have great ideas but are steamrolled by the aggressive ‘talkers’ in a group. This may take some self-awareness, but it’s important to acknowledge who is not talking but not calling them out. Rather, work to foster an environment where everyone can speak their minds. Consider every suggestion a possible ‘million dollar idea,’ considering everything. One never knows where the next breakthrough innovation will bubble up.

#4: Set Benchmarks

We might hate to admit it, but taking full advantage of a creative team requires some structure. While traditional project management, senior team member clout and hiccups in a project can kill collaboration – it’s important to create a loose project process to follow. Whether weekly meetings, brainstorming sessions or internal collaboration-based software – benchmarks can be of great use in allowing a team to see progress in the works.

#5: Communicate

This is pretty basic – but (wow) can it steer off course? Open and continual communication within a team is critical. Often, people assume or are afraid to ask how a project is coming along – thus leading to extended delivery times and a decreased level of positive culture. Further, being as honest as possible will allow for greater trust and a flow of ideas.

In all honesty, it will take more than these five elements to create a true culture of collaboration that permeates an organization. A team must recommit to the process daily, with every kickoff and every huddle an ongoing responsibility to encourage the best creative outcome.

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