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. Though collaboration has turned into a service based cultural buzzword seen all over the place (a little like innovation), its an elusive achievement that many don’t fully understand.

When most companies need branding work, the first thing they think about is 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 with regard to strategy and planning.

Creating an award winning design or campaign is a team effort. There are many parts of developing a brand that most people aren’t aware of, 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 the 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 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, as well as 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 – it is imperative that a team work together in understanding the true goal of the project. When kicking off a job, clearly working through the requirements of the project to determine the best route is of the utmost importance. As we all know, many projects take right and left turns, changing course almost constantly, so a creative brief can go a long way in getting everyone on the same page as to what the initial goals were.

#3: Listen

(Most) Everyone wants to be heard. This is a common fact, particularly in the creative industry. However, there are the few that 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 call them out. Rather, work to foster an environment where everyone can speak their minds. Think of every suggestion as the possible ‘million dollar idea’, taking everything into consideration. 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 to a project can kill collaboration – it’s important to create some sort of a loose project process to follow. Whether weekly meetings, brainstorm sessions or an 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 absolutely critical. Many times people assume, or are afraid to ask about 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 flow of ideas.

In all honesty, it will take more than these 5 elements to create a true culture of collaboration that permeates an organization. A team must recommit to the process every day, with every kickoff and every huddle in an ongoing responsibility to encourage the best creative outcome.

Vanessa Petersen

As Executive Director of Brand Strategy based in ArtVersion’s Portland office, Vanessa manages both national and West Coast accounts. She brings with her a passion for strategy with extensive experience in creative marketing, brand growth and development. She is a true advocate of storytelling and brand building from the inside out, and her keen knowledge of the marketplace, trend patterns and usability lead her to identify opportunities that can inspire powerful design strategies.

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