Good creative collaboration is like setting sail in uncharted waters: it takes teamwork to successfully reach your intended destination.
But if you want to reap the benefits of creative collaboration, you need more than a group of talented people. After all, a ship without a map is as good as sunk.
Let’s discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of creative collaboration, as well as the ways you can master it to encourage productivity, unlock innovation, and solve problems faster.
Table of contents
- What is creative collaboration?
- 5 most common challenges of creative collaboration
- 7 reasons creative collaboration is important
- 6 tips for successful creative collaboration
What is creative collaboration?
Creative collaboration is the process of leveraging teamwork to complete a project or accomplish a goal using innovative methods that combine the perspectives, artistic views, and ideas of multiple members of a creative team.
Think of it as fruit juice. 😀
Orange juice is great on its own, right? But when you mix in some other citrus, and you throw in a couple of exotic fruits, you get yourself the tastiest and most refreshing summer punch.
The same principle applies to combining the creative juices of team members when doing creative work.
Creative collaboration is the blueprint of innovation. It is something that gives a brand an edge over competitors.
For instance, a group of writers could collaborate with a team of 3D artists from the design department to create the ultimate virtual experience by combining a killer script, immersive design, and 3D forms.
For such projects, all the team members should have a say and contribute to the project planning process – even on aspects of the project that might transcend their field of expertise.
We know it might sound counterintuitive to allow an expert designer to give suggestions on tasks outside their department. But this is actually a great way to overcome creative blocks and improve problem-solving within a team.
5 most common challenges of creative collaboration
Working with a team isn’t always a breeze. Think about the uniqueness of every individual who might be on that team. Each creative has their own style, approach, and various strengths that they bring to the table.
In addition to individual differences, there are some challenges creatives have to overcome when collaborating. Let’s take a look at the most common ones below.
Steve and Mark are camping when a bear suddenly comes out and growls. Steve starts putting on his tennis shoes.
Mark says, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear!”
Steve says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear—I just have to outrun you!” 🥴
Source: The Podcast Factory
Humans are known to be very competitive—especially in a professional setting. It’s in our nature to compete and try to outperform our peers.
While a little healthy competition never hurt anyone, sometimes too much competition puts us at war with one another, resulting in poor collaboration.
#2: Organizational silos
Company structures usually separate professionals into specialized departments. By itself, that’s not necessarily an issue.
However, when people are placed in different offices and are not encouraged to communicate, collaboration becomes difficult.
When departmental silos are in place, certain information may not be accessible to all teammates. Plus, silos reduce workflow transparency and can create a chasm between different teams, potentially reducing overall employee productivity and efficiency.
One effective way to break the silo mentality is good communication. This takes us to another collaboration challenge—miscommunication.
A round table of even the most experienced and skilled creative professionals is not enough to ensure the success of a project.
Project failure can happen even when you have a team made up only of brilliant minds.
Sure, experts possess the skills needed to complete individual tasks successfully. But if they can’t work together and communicate effectively, their individual successes won’t add up to anything meaningful.
In other words, miscommunication complicates project management and disrupts team dynamics.
That’s why it is important to be able to spot communication gaps and patch them accordingly.
It is also helpful to encourage open communication in the workplace where creatives can easily voice their thoughts, opinions, and challenges without being bogged down by formal internal communication protocols.
When creatives can communicate easily with coworkers, effective collaboration will naturally follow.
#4: Using the wrong communication channels
There’s a general consensus that communication in the workplace in any shape or form is beneficial to an organization’s productivity.
However, using the wrong channels to communicate with peers can lead to misunderstanding and conflict.
This is especially true when talking about hybrid and remote-first work environments where synchronous communication sessions are often difficult to schedule but nonetheless important.
Even though it’s hard to establish meetings that account for everyone’s time zone and availability, sometimes it’s imperative to have real-time conversations with your team. Some things just need to be said face-to-face — not over an email.
For instance, when someone’s up for a promotion, the best way to discuss the role with them would be during a live meeting. On the other hand, an update with company news can easily be passed around in an email.
The same paradigm applies to team communication. It’s important to offer creatives the means to hold meetings when necessary while also encouraging asynchronous communication when face-to-face time is not mandatory.
After all, creatives who are stuck in back-to-back meetings every day won’t be nearly as productive as ones who maintain control over their daily schedule!
#5: Lack of workflow transparency
Workflow transparency allows for the dynamic reorganization of the tasks at hand without affecting other business processes.
Transparency in general is essential in every team—it builds trust and assists creatives in working towards achieving a common goal.
When workflows are transparent, everyone is aware of each team member’s role in the big picture since they have an overview of everyone’s tasks and deadlines.
This level of visibility helps people understand how their work impacts others and how the slightest delay would slow down the whole production apparatus.
To increase workflow visibility, you can use tools like Trello, Asana, and other task management platforms that allow team members to grasp the bigger picture at one glance.
7 reasons creative collaboration is important
One of the most popular quotes about teamwork and creative collaboration is “no man is an island.”
While it’s true that working together is never a bad idea, why is that? Here are a few reasons:
#1: Keeps employees engaged
Working with others is always a good opportunity during the creative process for creatives to get feedback and learn from one another.
They can collectively deliberate on ideas and make decisions they deem best for the project. At the same time, a healthy dose of competition keeps creatives engaged and on their toes.
Plus, in environments where collaboration thrives, learning becomes a continuous process and it is often involuntary—another engagement-driving phenomenon.
#2: Enhances soft skills
Soft skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, public speaking, professional writing, teamwork, digital literacy, leadership, professional attitude, work ethic, career management, and intercultural fluency develop naturally when you’re a part of a collaborative team.
These are all skills that assist team effort and improve all-around efficiency. Soft skills are applicable to all professions and help you perform your job better and more efficiently.
#3: Promotes professional development
Creative collaboration gives individuals the space they need to grow in their craft.
Working with other creatives can be a catalyst for progress, forcing you to learn new skills and adopt new work strategies.
Let’s say you are a graphic designer and you have to collaborate with a writer who is naturally good with words.
Both of your professional experiences melt together and re-emerge as an astonishing design stuffed to the brim with witty and compelling copy.
You may not have realized this throughout the process, but while you were collaborating, you actually learned the following lessons from each other:
- You understood what a convincing call to action (CTA) should look like
- The writer learned what kerning is
Mini-lessons like the ones above help us as professionals to speak the same language as other creative departments and, ultimately, improve communication and efficiency.
#4: Improves problem-solving
Creative collaboration promotes a work culture where brainstorming is encouraged and where deep think is required to solve problems and tackle challenges.
With vast professional experience comes great perks. But believe it or not, there’s a downside to being a well-versed professional—the Einstellung effect.
The Einstellung effect defines a phenomenon that happens when we apply the same problem-solving strategies that we’ve learned from past experiences to new problems – regardless of the fact that simpler or more efficient solutions exist.
When you’ve got a mix of employees with different levels of experience working on the same project, new, outside-the-box ways of solving problems arise.
When the Einstellung effect is tackled through creative collaboration, work gets streamlined, innovation enters the room, and productivity increases.
#5: Increases productivity
Productivity is a major factor in a team’s ability to grow. Therefore, productivity is the greatest determinant of the standard of work delivered.
A team’s productivity is defined by how efficient they are at doing their job and delivering results that are relevant and satisfactory.
Collaboration speeds up creative workflows through decreased feedback loops and shorter review cycles. It maximizes the output of the available resources and allows teams to reach project approval faster and easier.
Fortunately, there are tools like MarkUp.io that can cut the time needed for feedback and the creative process in half. Just imagine how easy it would be to request, provide, and collect feedback when the collaborative process between your creative team and clients is smooth and frictionless.
Tools like MarkUp.io eliminate the need for email threads with vague revision requests, long wait times between replies, and miscommunications.
Those sure add up to some significant time savings.
#6: Streamlines communication
An efficient collaboration system can help remote teams be on the same page regardless of location and time zone differences.
Let’s say you use collaboration tools to ask for the unique perspective of other creative colleagues that are in a different time zone than you. For this, you would create a markup of your project, share the link with said teammates over your preferred communication channel, and get on with your day.
When your colleagues’ shifts start, they can open the link you shared and pin contextual comments with their opinions on your work.
This method takes the need for long explanations out of the equation and makes communication easier—especially in multinational companies with employees all over the world who have different mother tongues.
#7: Encourages innovation
We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: growth is inevitable when you work with a team of like-minded people.
Collaborative work between creatives can often resemble an improv night at a comedy club or the childhood game, Pass the Story. In both of these scenarios, the end product is the result of people imaginatively building upon each other’s ideas.
This is how innovation is born—piling up creative ideas and picking up where the other person left off to create an amazing end result.
6 tips for successful creative collaboration
You now know the what and why of team collaboration. Now, let’s get to the how.
Better creative collaboration starts with building strong professional partnerships where teamwork, communication, and mutual respect come naturally.
But how can you encourage team members to bond and bounce ideas off each other as easily as kindergarteners make up stories?
Below, we have six tips to help you lay the foundation for the collaborative environment you have been dreaming of.
Tip #1: More Loom, less Zoom: Fewer real-time meetings
Progress only happens when actual work is being done. And frequent, real-time meetings where the team talks about doing work without actually doing any work prevent that from happening.
We’re 100% sure of one thing: creatives don’t like when their creativity flows and ideation states are interrupted. Sadly, your daily Zoom catch-up calls might do exactly that.
Do you really need daily meetings?
We’re pretty sure you don’t.
Instead, try to reserve synchronous communications for special occasions and for when things absolutely can’t be transmitted other than using a (virtual or not) face-to-face communication channel.
If you’re getting in the weeds with your ideas, try Loom(ing) them for a change. Loom allows you to record your screen, yourself, or both in short videos that can be then shared via links with your team.
It’s an efficient way to get your message across without disturbing anyone’s workflow or interrupting them to schedule a call.
Plus, Loom is a platform where creatives can do more than tell you what they mean. Loom users are actually able to use the software to record their screen and show you what they mean. Loom is a great way to go when your team is made up of creatives around the world.
Not only that, but you can also attach Loom videos to your comments in MarkUp.io. 🙃
Tip #2: Use visual feedback tools
Visual feedback tools are great to have in your toolbox when it comes to collaboration.
Feedback apps, like MarkUp.io, improve the quality of communication and show the exact elements where the feedback should be incorporated and areas that need more work.
You can use these tools to pin feedback contextually to eliminate the time needed to decode email feedback and ask for clarifications like:
“What button are you talking about? Could you please attach a screenshot and circle the element you’re referring to?”
With MarkUp.io, you create MarkUps of your creative projects that can be directly annotated with pixel-accurate commentary.
The platform takes the confusion out of your review and approval process.
Plus, it speeds up the overall communication process. You’re just more efficient as a reviewer when you don’t have to explain the position, page, and appearance of each part and section you want to be revised.
Not to mention, the time saved on giving feedback also leaves more time for brainstorming and innovation.
Tip #3: Add internal feedback as a step to your workflow
Internal feedback keeps employees well-informed about their contribution to the progress of the overall team’s objectives, thus increasing engagement.
While it is important to make sure everyone feels heard, it is equally effective to give constructive criticism to team members when you feel their idea may not be the best for a particular project.
One of the ground rules in business is that a customer is always right. So, learning to take feedback professionally and incorporate it into your work is a skill every creative needs to possess.
Sharing your progress with your teammate can prove useful and serve as a great exercise in taking criticism lightly.
In addition to that, if other team members have worked on similar projects, they can spot some red flags that you may have been unaware of.
Tip #4: Enable team members to co-create
To boost collaboration, you have to actually allow team members to work together on collaborative projects.
Providing creatives with the ability to co-create deliverables, strategies, or entire projects helps a company simultaneously leverage the skill sets of multiple individuals.
This not only boosts team spirit but helps higher-ups manage available resources more efficiently for better results.
Tip #5: Create a centralized communication repository
The reservoir that contains all shared information is invaluable to any team.
It’s like the bank of all information that has been shared and creatives can fall back to this source to check boxes, refresh their memory on client feedback, re-read brand guidelines, and the like.
For instance, when using MarkUp.io, all the resolved feedback comments are stored in a reliable centralized communication repository that your team can access at any time.
Tip #6: Implement a file-sharing convention
Sharing information among colleagues is vital when you are part of a team.
When trying to streamline creative collaboration within your organization, you have to experiment with different ways of sharing project files efficiently among co-workers.
Carefully access each collaboration tool you find and eliminate those that don’t suit the type of file you are most frequently sharing.
Make sure the solution you choose allows you to create an easily shareable workspace that people in your team can access at any time without having to worry about archiving and converting file formats.
Let’s take MarkUp.io as an example of a file-sharing method you could implement across your entire organization. This platform supports the most common file formats for images, videos, design projects, text documents, and even live websites.
Some of these include JPG, JPEG, AI, PSD, MOV, MP4, HTML, PDF, TXT, DOC, DOCX, PDF, and a lot more.
But that’s not even the best part! MarkUp.io has a close-to-zero learning curve and a super intuitive interface. The platform is so simple to use that you don’t need any training or onboarding sessions to use MarkUp.io (although we’re always here to help you out if you need it).
For instance, to create MarkUps, you only need to drag and drop your project files into your MarkUp.io workspace. The platform does the rest for you in seconds.
But enough about us…
Over to you
Creative collaboration might seem intimidating at first, but we can help you break the ice.
MarkUp.io is an introvert-friendly collaboration tool that can successfully adapt to the needs of all your departments—from flamboyant designers and exuberant marketing teams to bohemian writers and pragmatic software engineers.
Start your free 14-day trial with MarkUp.io to make creative collaboration a key value within your organization.