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The definitive guide to effective creative collaboration

Creative Collaboration

8 minutes read

Online collaboration has become a buzzword for most brands, specialists, and psychologists. That’s mainly because creative directors and design managers must create a safe environment that enhances the team’s creative collaboration.

In the last few years, workspaces were redesigned to encourage creative collaboration.

We see increasing numbers of organizations investing in online collaboration tools and martech while aligning their people and processes to achieve long-term digital success through efficient collaboration.

One thing is clear.

We’re not talking about offline creative collaboration but about online collaboration, Creatopy being a cloud-based all-in-one ad design automation platform created for teams of all sizes.

We see a significant shift in workflows once companies understand the need for diversity in their communication and that innovative collaboration flourishes when they give up their well-established processes instead of restricting fresh perspectives.

From this point of view, startups are in an envied creative position, being free from the traditional “boxes to be ticked” processes.

However, collaboration is essential in organizations, SMBs, or startups and has more to do with introducing the right talent to the right online collaboration tools.

Table of contents

  1. What is creative collaboration?
  2. What are the principles of creative collaboration?
  3. Steps for achieving a successful creative collaboration flow
  4. What are the benefits of creative collaboration?
  5. Final Thoughts

What is creative collaboration?

Creative collaboration is an active process where people combine their skills, ideas, and resources to develop new and innovative solutions. This type of collaboration can occur online, using digital tools and platforms to help with communication, idea generation, and project execution. This eliminates geographical barriers and encourages people from different backgrounds to work together, sharing their unique talents and perspectives. This collaboration can occur across various creative disciplines such as design, writing, music, filmmaking, and more. Essential components of online creative collaboration include:

  1. Remote Communication Tools: Collaborators use platforms like video conferencing, instant messaging, or project management software to communicate and exchange ideas in real time despite being physically distant.
  2. Cloud-based Storage and Sharing: Files, documents, and resources are stored and shared using cloud-based storage solutions, allowing collaborators to access and work on them from anywhere with an internet connection.
  3. Collaborative Editing Tools: Online tools for collaborative editing, such as Google Docs, allow multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously, making it easy to brainstorm, edit, and refine creative content in real time.
  4. Version Control Systems: Version control tools enable collaborators to track changes, manage revisions, and maintain a coherent workflow, ensuring that everyone is working on the latest version of a project.
  5. Virtual Workspaces: Virtual whiteboards and digital collaboration platforms provide a space for brainstorming, organizing ideas, and visualizing project timelines, fostering creativity and collaboration.
  6. Project Management Software: Tools like Trello, Asana, or Basecamp help teams organize tasks, set deadlines, allocate resources, and track progress, ensuring that projects stay on schedule and within scope.
  7. Feedback and Review Mechanisms: Online platforms facilitate feedback loops and review processes, allowing collaborators to provide constructive criticism, offer suggestions, and iterate on creative work until it meets the desired standards.

In this article, we’re analyzing whether collaboration is more than an empty cliche. 

What are the principles of creative collaboration?

The principles of creative collaboration are essential guidelines that govern the collaborative efforts of individuals or groups in generating innovative ideas and realizing creative projects.

Creative collaboration involves several guiding principles that help teams work together effectively to generate innovative ideas and bring them to life:

  1. Openness and Respect: Encourage a respectful and open environment where team members feel comfortable contributing their ideas without fear of judgment. Respect for diverse perspectives fosters creativity and innovation.
  2. Active Listening: It is essential to listen to others to understand and appreciate their viewpoints. This involves giving them your full attention, acknowledging their ideas, asking questions to clarify, and paraphrasing to ensure you understand them.
  3. Embrace Diversity: Value diversity in skills, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives within the team. Embracing diversity leads to richer and more varied ideas, fostering creativity and innovation.
  4. Shared Vision and Goals: Establish a shared vision and clear goals for the collaborative project. When everyone understands the overarching objectives and their role in achieving them, efforts align, and motivation drives.
  5. Iterative Process: Embrace an iterative approach to creative collaboration, where ideas are continually refined, tested, and improved upon through feedback and experimentation. Recognize that failure and setbacks are part of the process and that there are opportunities for learning and growth.
  6. Flexibility and Adaptability: Respond flexibly and adaptably to changing circumstances, feedback, and new insights. Creative collaboration requires a willingness to pivot, adjust strategies, and explore alternative approaches as needed.
  7. Effective Communication: Foster clear and transparent communication among team members, ensuring that information is shared promptly, accurately, and comprehensively. Use various communication channels and tools to facilitate collaboration and keep everyone informed.
  8. Constructive Feedback: Provide and receive constructive feedback in a respectful and supportive manner. Feedback should focus on the work rather than the individual, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement to enhance the quality of creative output.
  9. Empowerment and Ownership: Empower team members to take ownership of their contributions and decisions, fostering a sense of accountability and pride in their work. Encourage autonomy and initiative while providing support and guidance as needed.
  10. Celebration of Success: Celebrate achievements, milestones, and breakthroughs throughout the creative collaboration process. Recognize and reward team members’ efforts, reinforcing a positive and motivating work environment.

By adhering to these principles, teams can cultivate a culture of creativity, collaboration, and innovation that leads to the successful realization of creative projects and goals.

Steps for achieving a successful creative collaboration flow

Every piece of creative work, whether it’s a blog article, landing page, video, social media or display ad, requires creative collaboration.

This means that you have to work alongside other creative minds. Whilst the old saying “two heads are better than one” applies in a creative process, “too many cooks spoil the broth” can also become a reality. 

Let’s look at some practical steps that’ll help you answer the question of how to collaborate in a way that will help your team achieve all of its goals.

1. Define rules and roles

Throughout my professional experience, I worked with small companies, startups and big organizations.

In small companies, I frequently noticed the common “freedom” of making up rules as they go, which would inevitably lead to chaos and unpredictability.

On the other hand, big organizations remain tied up in the politics of budgets, payment procedures, and governance workflows, being weak in adapting and keeping pace with the rapidly changing digital landscape. 

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Collaboration thrives when there is an openness to embrace new practices and thinking, but also when there are rules and leaders.

It’s easy to fall into the hierarchy trap and set rules that will only drive ideas to please the superiors rather than truly creative ones. 

Tips and rules for creative collaboration

Your team members should have similar levels within the hierarchy with clearly defined roles and play by the ground rules while the team leader is not losing the focus on the expected outcome.

This will help them keep the focus on the bigger picture while setting expectations for the team’s performance. 

Regarding the rules, imagine being part of an NBA team without knowing the rules at all. You don’t know what you’re supposed to do with the ball and why everyone is screaming at you.

You can’t help your team win. It’s the same with successful creative collaboration within a team.

Every team member needs to understand the specific vocabulary (creative brief, brand guidelines), rules (checklists, plannings, weekly meetings, sprints), and goals (awareness, traffic, revenue). 

When everyone’s playing the same game, things flow naturally.  

2. Create an environment that encourages communication

Effective collaboration isn’t just about bringing together a group of creative minds, with different skill sets, views, and values.

Diversity encourages questions and debates but creates room for criticism.

Make all team members understand from the very beginning that there’s no such thing as a dumb question. They all have different communication styles so they have to adapt in order to understand each other’s points of view.

Don’t just teach them. Show them, lead by example and model that integrity you want your team to follow. Rely on others but take a stand when necessary and hold yourself and your team accountable.  

Forget competitiveness and shape a relationship based on mutual respect. When something is not working, try and communicate why it’s not working and guide the team members into finding how to fix it.

This is going to help your work evolve while your teammates will learn.

3. Establish a common goal and shared vision

The very definition of collaboration is “when a group of people come together and contribute their expertise for the benefit of a shared objective”.

In my opinion, this is the most important step in empowering a creative collaboration. 

Establish a clear “why” among your fellow collaborators and creators, set clear objectives, goals and expectations. Once you know where you need to get, half of the problem is solved.

All you need to do is to define the steps to get there. 

In our marketing team, we’re using the creative brief concept. This structure works for us whether it’s a PPC campaign, a long-term editorial one, or releasing a new feature. It helps us bring all the teams on the same page and sets the boundaries for the brand. 

The structure is focused around:

  • Background and opportunities around the communication
  • The goal
  • The audience
  • The message
  • The existing resources
  • The requests

4. Use the tools that work best for you

As I was saying in the very beginning, the right talent has to meet the right tools.

A study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review research initiative in collaboration with Deloitte Digital found that nearly 90% of digitally maturing organizations are integrating their digital strategy with the company’s overall strategy.

Their managers are adequately preparing for the industry disruptions they anticipate arising from digital trends.

Big brands have well established creators behind them, most of them freelancers from different continents and time zones. They work with advertising agencies, influencers, micro-influencers and development teams.

Having digital tools that streamline workflows and creative collaboration is essential, as is sharing the work in progress and ideas super-often. And not just for big teams, for small ones too.

There are tons of listicles written about tools that help marketers, designers, advertisers, and developers work together efficiently.

As a project manager, you need to do your homework. Conduct your research, ask for trials, read reviews but most importantly, listen to your team’s feedback. 

Here at Creatopy, we’re using G Suite for communication, Trello for project management, Zeplin for product design collaboration, Jira as a software collaboration tool, and of course Creatopy as a creative collaboration tool for ads design, social media posts, covers, stories, and all sorts of marketing needs. 

What are the benefits of creative collaboration?

The benefits of creative collaboration are manifold. Firstly, it fosters diverse ideas and perspectives, leading to innovative solutions to problems. By bringing together individuals with varied backgrounds, expertise, and experiences, creative collaboration enables the synthesis of different viewpoints, sparking creativity and generating unique approaches.

1. Overcome the frustrations caused by limitation

Collaboration tools are meant to overcome the limitations that phone calls and emails bring. We’re still using emails and calls but bringing collaborative tools into our workflow means that any member of the team or working group can join an ongoing project and be up-to-speed right away. 

The use of email alone can lead team members to easily lose perspective. 

2. Physical barriers are eliminated

Through creative collaboration, managers don’t pick on people, but people pick topics.

A copywriter living in Romania is as engaged as the creative director located in the US, while both of them are bouncing ideas on a global branding project.

The geographical location is not a concern anymore because you can find talent anywhere in the world. Moreover, as other team members give real-time feedback, contributions could come from unexpected places. 

3. Collaborative feedback shortens time to completion

It’s all about speed nowadays and, for a business, delivering something innovative before others do is an imperative competitive advantage.

As Jeff Rayport stated in an article back in 2011 for the MIT Technology Review:

“Good ideas happen faster when the organization is awake 24 hours a day.”

When you have open-minded people around the globe working for a shared common goal, you can validate ideas to pursue quicker and faster than ever before.

One way to provide collaborative feedback is to give suggestions and point out areas of improvement in real-time. Tools such as ProofHub come with annotation and mark-up tools to provide you seamless feedback that works both ways.

4. Increased visibility

We all know that a state of the art product or idea is nothing without visibility. You need to promote it so that others adopt it, change behaviors or buy into it.

Collaborating on creative projects attracts natural connections and visibility while expanding your social circle of connections that will make things happen.

Final thoughts

Creative collaboration is not a new concept. Technology-based platforms designed for collaboration were first developed in the late 80s.

Right now, we are just living the dream while connecting, conversing, sharing, and interacting socially online with a common business goal.

Does your organization have a recipe for successful creative collaboration? Let us know in the comments section.

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