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Mice Net : February 2009
creative essentials Story By NIGEL COLLIN - creativity’s secret weapon collaboration There’s no doubT that one of creativity’s secret weapons is collaboration. rarely, very rarely, does anything happen without it. M an did not get to the moon by the efforts of just one person, Bill Gates did not build an empire by himself, and events don’t get off the ground without a good creative team behind them. Only last Tuesday my six-year-old son had a great idea. He wanted to make a robot dog out of a drink bottle but needed the help of his older sister to bring his creation to life! Creatively finding opportunities and meeting the challenges facing us in 2009 will be best achieved through collaboration. Rarely do ideas find a place into the world without it, and seldom are ideas the sole property of one person. In fact, the world is full of half-baked but still good ideas and ones that never get off the ground. It may be an individual who comes up with an initial thought or impulse but more often than not it takes the input of others to help evolve and refine it, get it past the stakeholders, work it through pre- production, and finally deliver it. And generating ideas is a collaborative process as well. We all know at times it’s far easier to come up with ideas when brainstorming or working in a group than by sitting alone pondering and trying to force the creative cogs to turn. And even if you have the initial brainwave your idea will need massaging, sending off in tangents, playing with and tossing about. Creativity is all about thinking differently and seeing things from unique and varied perspectives, so it’s essential to tap into the resources of other minds to fuel the creative process because we all think in certain ways, have different skills, different experiences and see things from different points of view. There is great benefit in building a collaborative culture and tapping into the creative minds of others. Here are a number of things you can do to get the collaborative process working: • Have devices and tools in place - You need to have a number of devices in place to stimulate and encourage collaboration, especially if your team is spread out. Here are some examples. 1. The virtual world is a great resource. Recently I facilitated sessions using Google Docs (allowing a number of people to contribute to a 58 mice.net document on-line in real time), very useful if you get creative about it. The virtual chat room can also be quite useful if it allows you to be selective with participants. I must say I like the idea of dedicated social networks. There’s a company called www.ning.com which allows you to set one up simply and quickly. 2. Of course you don’t just rely on virtual tools. Why not set up an ideas board in a high traffic area at your workplace where people can write up ideas or projects which others can then contribute freely to. 3. Time is also a useful tool. Set aside an hour or so to bring together your team, and others, to simply bang about ideas or work on selected projects. • Diversity is key - Collaboration by nature is about tapping into the different mindsets and experience and knowledge of others so it’s important to have a diverse range of people involved. Try including some people from different skill sets or areas of expertise as they will bring with them fresh eyes. Whether it’s a small brainstorming session or an on-line device, remember diversity is key. • Collaborate inside and outside - Collaboration doesn’t have to be an internal thing. There is enormous benefit with collaborating with people outside your company, such as your suppliers and your customers. There’s also great benefit in collaborating with people and companies outside your industry. Often they do things and see things completely differently which you can incorporate or use as a model. • The buck must stop somewhere - It’s also imperative when collaborating on a specific project or task to have someone (maybe a couple at most) who have the final say and ultimately make the decisions. I am a big fan of collaboration but there is always the danger of decision by committee. Ultimately the buck must stop somewhere. Whether we work solo or in groups it’s smart to seek input and benefit from the collective creative wisdom of others. It makes our creative lives easier, more fruitful and ultimately yields greater results. Nigel helps companies and their people be more creative through his ‘funnelvision’™ workshops, keynotes and consulting and is author of ‘Think BITS’. More information can be found at www.nigelcollin. com.au or contact Nigel at firstname.lastname@example.org