Creative Collaboration: What does it take?

Creative collaboration is doubly complex because the “common” goal we are working towards isn’t even known yet. We’re working together to come up with something entirely new, so it’s impossible to “know” what the outcome will be before we start. Therefore, we should try to find a replicable method that can help stack the odds in our favour.

By looking at examples of collaboration successes and failures, we should see common factors among each. Unfortunately, with the sheer number of factors that could affect collaboration, this will be like a giant game of “Where’s Waldo?” – there will be many possible answers, some more accurate than others, but we will have to wade through a certain amount of irrelevance. Fortunately, like Waldo, successful creative collaborations do seem to have a few trademark characteristics.


It may seem counter-intuitive, but there has to be a defined leader who’s job it is to run the collaboration. This can be a facilitator, truly outside the group, or an elected member of the group who’s specific job it will be to make sure the agreed-upon rules are followed.


Rules are key. Everyone must have a chance to speak, but no one can be allowed to pontificate. Personalities can be given a chance to shine, that’s why they’ve been invited to the collaboration, but they can’t be allowed to dominate. New ideas can and should be fielded, within reason.


If a group is too similar, you can get groupthink, if they’re too diverse, the lack of common ground might inhibit progress. It has to be a combination of expertise on the subject matter, and “curve-ball” participants, whose specific role is to think differently.


Last but not least, a little discomfort goes a long way. When people know what to expect, they shut down their creative brain. If you can keep people slightly off-balance, they don’t know what to expect, and will be more open to the “unexpected”, allowing them to think more creatively.

Some proponents of collaboration might disagree, claiming that boundaries will infringe on the creative abilities of the group, but it is these boundaries that seem to be the most important components of creative collaboration. Without keeping the process “reigned in”, it can quickly spiral out of control. So while it may seem counter-intuitive to have someone “lead” the collaboration according to a “set of rules”, without boundaries we end up with the tennis match from last week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *