When you work in a creative industry (like we do), it’s not easy coming up with a constant flow of bold new ideas and creative responses to challenging problems. You feel the pressure of delivering unique products that will make your clients happy and promote your brand.
As if that were not enough, chances are 80% of the most important tasks require teamwork, which means that the success of your projects is greatly affected by how well your team is able to work together to achieve a common goal.
You look at companies like Apple, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb or Slack and wonder “How did they get there?”. Most importantly, you want to know how YOUR team can get there.
Every company and every team is different and therefore you can’t expect to find a linear path or a magic formula to creative success. However, there are creative thinking and collaboration techniques you can use to intentionally create the right conditions that will inspire your team to think big.
Some argue that creativity is supposed to come naturally, a spontaneous process, triggered by some sort of intelligent and logical progression - like Isaac Newton’s story of the falling apple. As much as we like the Eureka story, it just doesn’t fit in today’s competitive world.
Why not go for the latest innovation and collaboration technology instead? Post-it notes. Yes, incredibly, paper is not dead yet and a stack of colorful sticky notes can do amazing things for your team’s creative inspiration and relationship building.
Here are some simple but effective creative collaboration techniques you can apply with your team as you go through different stages of the creative process:
When starting a project for a new client, your team needs to explore ideas, become aware of different possibilities - the so-called divergent thinking stage.
This is usually the time for brainstorming, a widely used creative thinking tool to generate ideas quickly. However, it is also one of the techniques most likely to fail. It may seem a simple matter of asking your team to share their ideas and opinions, but the session can end up going in the wrong direction if it doesn’t take into consideration rules, styles or personalities.
Brainstorming works best as Brainwriting - write first, talk second.
Lay down the ground rules of the session and hand out a stack of sticky notes to each participant. People write down their ideas and the notes are anonymously displayed on a wall for open discussion. You should know that “constraints breed creativity", so make sure to set strict time limits for the brainwriting activity (usually, several minutes).
You can and should repeat the process a few more times, building on what has been already displayed on the wall. This will provide for a generous amount of quality ideas and solutions.
This technique is the perfect way to avoid any fear of rejection. People won’t hold back and no one will be able to overpower the session. It was found that brainwriting groups generated 20% more ideas and 42% more original ideas as compared to traditional brainstorming groups.1
Select & Grade
After some intense divergent thinking, the goal is no longer to generate ideas but to judge and select them as a group. Your team needs to sort through all the ideas and discuss them more in depth to get to the convergence zone, where decisions become finally clear.
Make the task less challenging and more interactive by turning to the sticky notes from the previous brainwriting session. Ask your team to move them around and group them into themes or categories.
Next, on a scale up on the wall - for example, from 1 - 5 (1 being the lowest and 5 the highest), invite each team member to grade each category, by placing one note for each somewhere on the scale. From this point on, you can hone in on the important discussions you need to have to rule out, edit or combine ideas.
This technique helps to get a better understanding of each other’s perspectives and to immediately see the level of agreement within the team. The conversation will end up taking everyone to clarity and decision making.
Although we tend to ignore this when it comes to teamwork, it is important to get to know the people you work with. Strengthening relationships within your team will only benefit the creative process. People who know one another are more likely to overcome their differences and find common ground than people who remain isolated and unaware of one another’s personalities, likes, dislikes, weaknesses and strengths.
Once again, you can achieve a great outcome by using post-it notes in a fun exercise, split into 2 parts.
In the first part, each person has to write down 3 personal or professional qualities for each colleague and place the notes on that person’s back. Everyone should be standing and moving around, so that no one can be sure who wrote on each note.
In the second part, each person is going to read what everyone else wrote about them and select 3 notes with the qualities they identify with the most. What follows is an open team conversation where one person at a time explains why they chose those qualities and shares other strengths and weaknesses that might have been left out.
By changing how people perceive each other, relationships are strengthened and efforts are made to understand one another’s perspectives.
With some time and practice, creative thinking and collaboration can quickly become an attitude instead of a technique. The first step to take is to learn and apply creativity techniques like these, so that your team can deliberately use them when they need to come up with new ideas or solutions, and ultimately reach their full creative potential.
If you still need some help with ideas, solutions or tips & tricks, don't be shy and give us a buzz! In the meantime, bee creative.