“Creativity is not that important, really. Working rigidly as a team and making everyone follow the exact same steps to get sub-optimal results is where it’s at!”
-no one, ever.
Everyone has a very personal way of working with their creative process: some walk for a while or take a shower to get new ideas; others write them up on card or on their computer to see them all together and find a smart way to connect them; some even just start working to avoid losing time and wait for the ideas to come as they go (which sounds like being a workaholic, to be honest, but at least it keeps things moving).
But while every given individual is always an intimate decision, working with the creative process with more than one person is a completely different problem.
You aren’t just going towards the same goals, but you also need to take every individual talent and responsibility they have, no matter how different they are and find a way to unite them into a single line of work.
Programmers, graphic designers, copywriters, engineers, community managers, accountants (‘cause everybody has one), each of these skills and methodologies need to work as one to guarantee that any given brand can become more than just the sum of its parts.
Or in other words… a team.
How do you even start a creative process with widely different people? That is the job of every leader to work out. We believe, however, that the essence of your creative teamwork – and all creative work – always follows the same principles to balance input with originality.
And in this blog, we want to offer 3 simple tips for you to implement in your team immediately. 3 strategies to help each member get in line with the same goals, while also taking their abilities to new heights.
1) Think in first principles
Here’s a quick insight: sometimes the things you should solve aren´t necessarily that obvious,
We’ll even go as far as to say that when it comes to solving creative problems (especially the complex ones), most of the issues arise from not even knowing the true problem.
Let’s say you’re a plumber (Mario’s long-lost nephew, because of course you are), and they hire you to fix a leak but your only goal is just “to fix the leak”, then you don’t really understand the situation. Something may be stuck that needs to be pulled out, or maybe the pipes are corroding and need to be changed; or heck, maybe it is just a leak after all, but you would never know unless you take the time to find out the what’s and why’s. That’s the equivalent of a doctor medicating a sick person without them knowing the meaning of the symptoms (yes, the metaphors are all over the place, we know, but the point stands).
TL;DR: the first goal of any creative team is – 1) thoroughly studying the circumstances of their task – 2), to understand the true problems that need to be solved.
First-principles thinking is as old as philosophy itself. It consists of working your way towards the simplest suppositions and assumptions. To find out the very essentials of a thing, just by asking the correct questions.
Returning to the plumbing scenario (you still owe Mario a call, he’s worried), the first question is very clear – why is it leaking? This may lead you to lots of other questions: where is it leaking? – why there? – is there something stuck? – how old are the pipes? – has a previous plumber worked on the pipes before you? – and the list goes on, and on, and on.
This way of thinking works in two ways.
First, it provides a clear path of insights and goals: the questions you answer become foundational data, while the unanswered ones become tasks to solve (just remember to have a clear direction with the questions, the previous one making it clear what the next one should be)
Second, it disrupts suppositions and assumptions that may otherwise obstruct the way for insights. Marketing and advertising have a lot of dangerous suppositions considered as “common sense”, which do nothing but get in the way of true innovation and growth.
Just as they say, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Sometimes, the best way of making your team avoid these traps can start with a simple why.
Has your agency acquired a new client? Is your team stuck with a campaign or an account that just doesn’t seem to grow?
Have a brainstorming meeting with your whole team. Put the main problems or solutions your team has to provide, and from there make everyone involved with the why´s and what’s. Start with an assumption or question, then go from there:
- Is this the problem, or a symptom of the real problem?
- Why do I think this is a fact? Can I back it up with data?
- What do my coworkers believe? Why?
- Can we approach it from a different angle? Are we looking at it from the correct perspective?
- Where can we implement these conclusions? How can everyone implement them from their own disciplines and strengths?
Lead the meeting so that everyone has a say on the matter, as well as a clear path towards accomplishing those insights.
Make it about your team first, the questions second.
2) Work fast, improved even faster
We’ve already done a blog about how “failure” is anything but (if approached correctly). We also said that there is a great motto used in lots of engineering schools to improve designs over time: “fail fast”.
We want to offer a different take on the same philosophy: work fast, improve it faster.
Especially in team efforts, we all tend to spend lots of time trying to bring the “perfect” version of that work (a design, a webpage, a piece of content or code even). And yes, of course, it’s important to bring one’s 100% to make the best version they could do and to impress their coworkers.
It’s also incredibly unproductive. Everyone has their own way of working, and that should always be respected, but it’s important to make the time between feedback and improvement as efficient as possible.
Here lies the beauty of the teamwork process; instead of making their objective to make the perfect version of that task, incentivize them to create a workable version of it and to ask for feedback from the team.
It’s not about doing it for every task, nor having to make 12 iterations based solely on checking small tweaks – that would be incredibly unproductive as well. It’s about granting your team a chance to listen and be involved, as well as helping their teammates with solutions they may not see because of their deep involvement in the project.
Next time someone has a heavy task that needs to be solved quickly, or a team task that needs everyone to solve it quickly – make it your personal mission to involve everyone in the process.
- If you don’t have one, create a chat group with all of the team. Incentivize them to share something whenever they are struggling with a task, while also making sure everything is respectful and always about constructive criticism.
- If needed, also incentivize for quick meetings online or in your office. Maybe some of them won’t make it because of time or other tasks, but let the ones that can and want to be participants. Good teams care for each other; if one is struggling, they need a hand from everyone.
3) Invest in training their passions
The greatest thing about teams lies in their inherent diversity,
Everyone has unique talents and perspectives that make the whole better than the sum of the parts (no matter how “good” some of the other parts may be on specific things). Therefore, every leader is responsible for nurturing those talents.
However, the world of marketing always seems to demand a lot of time and energy in order to get the job done in time. And “nurturing those talents” may seem like too much of a bother when everyone “should be working on their goals” and nothing else.
But your team isn’t an efficiency machine. They are people. They have a life outside their work: passions, and hobbies they want to pursue. And if your management is making them be away from those things with an unfair amount of work “for the good company” you aren’t just a bad boss, you’re also acting as a mean person.
This doesn’t mean you need to “suggest” or force teammates to use their talents for the agency if they don’t wish to; studies about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation clearly show that turning some passions into work may not only decrease the quality of their input but also ruin the joy of the activity for that person.
What this means is that sometimes, the best way to help can be to allow your team to have healthy ways of expressing themselves. Online courses, small group activities, maybe even actual courses given by someone in the team.
Invest in their passions – sometimes work needs someone to acquire better skills and, therefore, receive training, and that’s fine. But people need a better incentive than that to spend time on any company. So look up for them, make their time and work worthwhile. You will certainly be surprised with what a more fulfilled human being can bring to the table.
What are the biggest passions of your team? Individual and collective? Find them out – but please don’t be a pushover, we all know how bureaucratic and insincere it looks when bosses send a questionnaire or the likes to find out these things.
Pay attention to their conversations, which tasks do they find easier or most enjoyable? If you are gonna invest in training, you should have them look for the courses or classes they may want to take, then find out why. Who knows, maybe the fact that your graphic designer wants a course in music composition can be used in an interesting way if they want to, and if both of you work towards a way of implementing those passions and talents in creative solutions.
(That being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with an employee wanting to invest time in a hobby; not everything needs nor should be related to work).
You could even program periodic meetings with the team, and ask them directly:
- What are the parts of your job you love doing the most?
- What are the wants you just don’t want to do anymore?
Unfortunately, every job has things we plainly just dislike. However, you may find out that some of those things may be eliminated simply by talking and working with your team towards better ways to work together.
The modern marketing landscape can be rough. Not only is it extremely competitive, it also demands a very efficient team and attention for any given brand to actually make a difference in the growth of the company.
With Nomad Digital, we’ll take care of that growth. With the flexibility of an outsourced agency, the integrity of an inhouse department, and the efficiency of a growth marketing team, we’ll make your brand as popular as you’ve ever imagined.