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The art behind creative collaboration

Written 26 February, 2019, 4 minutes to read

Creatives are a rare breed. They’re bold, brimming with ideas and eager to solve new challenges. But getting them to work together effectively requires more than optimism; in fact, there’s a certain art to it. Use these five winning approaches to maximize your team’s creative collaboration and offer clients your best creative ideas – every time.

1. One brief to rule them all

When a job comes in, quickly lock down the brief. Test it, stretch it and tweak it as a group, and get your client to sign-off your creative changes before starting anything. This initial sign-off is crucial: it puts all your creatives on the same page and sets the boundaries for your task.

Your team will waste less time chasing outstanding information and going off in different design directions. It also keeps the whole iterations process cleaner – with clear agreement right at the start, your client has to consider and commit to an idea. No half-baked thoughts or design U-turns: your team’s creations are better placed to meet client expectations.

Be sure to gather all design materials you need at this point too; no one can start anything until your client has confirmed their style guide or design schema.

2. Creative directors are mentors not bosses

It may sound counter intuitive but the distinction is an important one: a boss instructs and expects adherence; a mentor listens, encourages and coaches. One of the easiest – and often underestimated – ways to get your many creatives to work in harmony is to ask for suggestions when a job comes in.

Taking the time to identify and harness an individual creative’s strengths right from the point they enter the company can help this. It’s a key form of intrinsic motivation – seeking someone’s opinion during an appropriate phase in the creative process builds their self-confidence and sense of value. And being able to recognize different talents means creatives are more likely to listen and learn from each other; growing as a group, instead of as competitors.

As a mentor, creative directors should also recognize an individual’s areas for improvement. This performance gap may be technical, perceptual or academic, but giving constructive feedback and a development plan to act on it helps raise overall performance and shows you actually want to invest in them.

3. Track creative collaboration

While messiness may indeed improve creativity, managerial disorganization can spell creative disaster. When you juggle several clients and projects simultaneously, you need a completely watertight project management process – and that starts with understanding what your creatives are actually doing.

Thankfully, you can now completely automate your creative project management. AI-powered time trackers like Timely can show you exactly how long tasks and projects phases take, where your budget is going, and which activities people are working on in real-time. Being automatic, your creatives don’t have to waste time logging their hours or pulling together reports. Everyone can see what’s going on from a central project management dashboard.

Automatic project time tracking makes a lot of sense for creative collaboration when you’re in the middle of a project, but it’s pretty much essential for future creative work too – by estimating projects more accurately, you know what jobs are actually profitable before signing the contract.

4. Have a creative outlet

Working to the brief is gospel in most companies, but it can come at a cost when creatives feel their genius isn’t allowed to flourish freely. So think about ways you can provide creative outlets for your team.

A company blog or weekly staff presentation is a great place to start. Giving people a space to explore their passion and express their own individuality in the process is great for company culture and creative collaboration. It’s relaxing, enjoyable and has the happy consequence of helping your creatives bond. Schedule a rota if you need to, to ensure everyone takes part and shares the responsibility.

Company forums for sharing inspiration, ideas or recent experiences can achieve the same benefits. If you really want an open culture, create opportunities for people to do so to encourage creative discussion. Protecting time each week for individual development is also a great idea – whether that enables your creatives to work on a personal project, attend a course or try out new techniques in a safe space.

5. Bond through challenge

Trust circles may have worked at camp, but creative minds seek challenge. So, try and incorporate problem solving into team bonding activities. It could be as simple as separate teams competing in a Lego building contest, or digging out a past project – or taking that of a competitor – and challenging your creatives to completely reimagine it.

Of course, when the goal is boosting inter-personal bonds, it doesn’t have to be based around work: office fitness challenges and these tried-and-tested team building games do a similar job.

Does your team need an energy boost? See what really motivates creatives.

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