Playing Nice

How to get to better ideas through a collaborative process.

Diana Lillicrap 4.24.2018

We often tell clients that “we play nice in the sandbox.” It means we embrace working with others to get to the best ideas for the project at hand. The thing is, we don’t just say it. We mean it. Because we believe in the true power of creative collaboration.

Competition is self-serving

Collaboration is a concept that big agencies of the 90s really didn’t follow. Clients used to pit one firm against another to see which would come back with the best ideas or the most creative approach. Competition may have pushed some agencies to be more creative, but the practice created an ‘everyone for themselves’ mentality with extreme inefficiencies of the agency’s time and the client’s money.

It’s a new world

Today, marketing isn’t just focused on the next big ad or flashy new sales tool. It’s diverse, technical, and specialized. From research to social media to insight selling, marketing covers a complex arena. And to be effective across all areas, you need a team of experts who are focused on one goal—yours.

Ready to embrace a collaborative process to accomplish bigger results? Here are three simple tips to use:

1. Get the right people on the team

Recognizing what you don’t know is just as important as what you do know. Start by defining your goals and clarifying what you want to accomplish. Then be honest about what you can handle on your own and what would benefit from an expert outside of your department or even outside of your company. Diversity of thought and outside perspective is valuable in the early stages of any project. Factor this into your planning and seek out the true experts that will give you an advantage in reaching your goals.

2. Turn egos into eggs

Great leaders know that the best work happens when everyone feels valued, respected, and a sense of ownership for the work that is generated. Take time to acknowledge each team member’s unique viewpoint and then set some ground rules about what you expect from the team during the creative process. As new ideas emerge and take shape, actively switch roles, swap seats, or take other mindful steps to transfer any personal ownership from one person or small group to another. Embryo ideas need cross-pollination to turn from good to great. And if everyone has a part in hatching the final plan, ownership will naturally occur.

3. Work the process

The process part of “collaborative process” is really the key. A good process—one that is organized, focused, and allows for flexibility—is how to bring multiple people, ideas, and outcomes together. Utilize the tools of effective project management to keep you on track and moving toward your end goal. Exercise some basic guidelines for productive meetings and for work that happens before and after your collaborative session. Lastly, set up criteria for idea evaluation and expectations about how you will implement on what is decided. Everyone will feel more confident and committed when a clear process is in place.

Better together

A truly collaborative process results in something you never could have accomplished alone. It brings together the best of all areas, all people, and all resources to achieve something bigger. So, play nice with others, be purposeful, and use a process, and your sandbox will be filled with amazing castles.

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