In modern professional environments, competing with your peers is no longer the way to get ahead. Today, moving up the ranks is highly dependent on how well people you collaborate with others. Regardless of how established your company is, the size of it, or the type of company you work for, creativity and collaboration are essential for innovation, and accomplishing goals.
But what does it really mean to collaborate with others in a world where teams are being asked to design completely new ideas, and then work together to execute them? In short, we require a completely different type of teamwork, a different perspective on what it means to collaborate, and a structure that fosters creativity and collaboration.
In order to really cultivate creativity and collaboration, we need to understand the collaborative creativity definition. Learn why collaborative work is essential, and to cultivate creativity and collaboration in the workplace.
What are collaborative skills?
Establishing creativity and collaboration in the workplace is a challenging, but important part of defining collaborative work. When done well, it sets the tone and forms an actionable plan moving forward.
ESI International’s research report found that less than one-third of teams are effectively successful in driving a project forward. They also found 65.5% of workers believe that their organization’s project performance would benefit from learning how to collaborate with others better. Over 80% of people required help with communications, while just under 50% require help with leadership or critical thinking skills. The key to improving these skills? Companies that provide creativity and collaboration training.
So what are collaborative skills? Basically, they are the foundation that ensures people can work well together.
Here are a few ways that collaborative skills can be fostered and developed in a professional setting:
Talented and Skilled Team Members
Perhaps this goes without saying, but having talented team members increases the chances of having a team that brings brilliant and unique perspectives to a project. Collaborative work benefits from a team that has complementary skills and innate talent. However, if you have a talented team member that cannot work with others or share their ideas effectively, it will likely be less successful. Asking open-ended questions, such as, Why? What if? What else? and How might we? will help open up dialogue and tap into their innovative minds.
The Right Fit
We hear this a lot these days, about being the right fit for a company. It’s absolutely crucial when it comes to effectively creativity and collaboration. Team members that believe in the vision of the company and share similar values are going to create a better and stronger team. They will be more likely to work well with one another too!
Positive Interactions and Healthy Relationships
A strong feeling of unity, caring and appreciation for one another allows for better conflict resolution and deeper, more vulnerable problem solving and conversations. When a team has a strong foundation as human beings, and not just coworkers, it builds trust and a willingness to share ideas freely.
A Clear Guiding Vision and Purpose
Storytelling and imagery can help engage the hearts and minds of your team, so that they see the bigger picture. An essential skill for effective collaborative work is being able to see beyond the initial hangups or problems. A clear vision or purpose can help team members work through frustrations as a team.
Similarly, team members should have clear objectives and expectations for the project. Writing a purpose statement for their collaboration and defining expectations, milestones, roles, responsibilities, and deliverables will help ensure everyone is working towards the same objectives.
Build Trust and Respect
Encouraging each and every member of the team to share their ideas and perspective increases innovation and creativity. When everyone feels included and heard, it will increase a sense of trust and respect among the team.
Develop Tangible Ideas
Build prototypes, draw diagrams, or use platforms like CloudApp to share your work. The goal is to quickly convey the look, feel, and functionality of your design. Don’t spend too much time on the prototype as they will likely undergo a lot of changes. Keep in mind what you’re testing for and who you’re designing for to avoid becoming too emotionally attached or bias.
Provide a Structure and Resources
Provide your team with the resources they need, and enough guidance to enable learning, communication and collaboration. The fastest way to failure is a team that feels they have zero support from the management level. This also includes coaching or training sessions to improve teamwork, emotional intelligence, or navigating difficult conversations.
Lead by Example
When a leader is open and part of the creativity and collaboration process, opposed to overseeing it, then the team is more likely to follow suit. Provide the team with time to weigh in on decisions, give feedback, and build connections with one another across the organization. Give credit where credit is due and recognize team performance as well as individuals.
Ways to Collaborate with Others
Creativity and collaboration need to go far beyond one brainstorming session. To move beyond that, consider incorporating the following into your collaborative workplace:
- Ask key questions
- Collaborate with others to assess multiple and differing perspectives
- Utilize the strengths of every team member
- Investigate unexpected areas
- Generating tons of new ideas with the hope that will spark lots of amazing ideas
- Include and encourage obvious solutions so you can expand into more innovative and unknown possibilities
As mentioned before, for collaborative work to be effective, you need to create an inclusive space where everyone is open to the power of possibility and recognizing that creativity and collaboration is an iterative process. Here, any and every idea is accepted and encouraged to be brought forward as your entire team generates a wide variety of potential answers and solutions. Once you have exhausted all of your ideas, it’s time to start pairing them down to the ones with the most potential, based on practicality and innovation.
This increases the potential, uniqueness, and effectiveness of your solution. It also reminds team members that when one idea doesn’t succeed, it’s an opportunity to learn and return to the drawing board.
There are tons of methods that help improve collaborative work including mind maps, bodystorming, sketches, prototypes, brainstorming, braindumps, storyboards, etc. Whatever your method, the key is to come prepared and to guide your session.
Structured and Guided
A work environment that effectively incorporates collaborative work that leads to a fruitful end requires structure, guidance, inspiration and specific activities that incorporates creativity and focus. Everyone involved needs to contribute in a way that encourages an environment where people feel equal, free, and open to share their ideas. Delegate the task of writing down contributors' ideas to one person who will place them on the whiteboard or poster.
If the process feels stagnant, consider imposing constraints or set targets to help guide your team. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Start with the problem statement outlined in the define phase, or focus on specific goals, plans or questions.
- Set a time limit
- Eliminate all judgment and criticism
- Encourage everyone and every single idea
- Encourage quantity
- Build on others’ ideas and encourage other perspectives to lead to new insights
- Use words and visuals to bring ideas to life or view them from a different perspective
- Guide the conversation so that everyone is focusing on the same objective and line of thinking
Six Thinking Hats
This simple and effective parallel thinking process helps increase productivity, focus, and improve mindful involvement. Separate your thinking into six clear functions and roles, each of which is identified with a color-coded "thinking hat." By mentally wearing and switching "hats," you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, and investigate ideas further. The White Hat focuses purely on the facts. The Yellow Hat explores the positives and looks for value and benefit. The Black Hat is the devil's advocate and spots the difficulties or why a solution may be ineffective. The Red Hat is all about discovering feelings, hunches, and intuition as a way to discover and share fears, likes and dislikes. The Green Hat looks for innovative alternatives and unusual ideas to explore new concepts and perceptions. The Blue Hat helps manage and facilitate the collaborative work so you stay on track.
Four Categories Method
The four categories method is broken down into the rational choice, the most delightful, the darling or most loved idea, and the long shot. Within each category, members must select two ideas to correspond with each category. This is an excellent way to cover more ground and incorporate practical ideas, as well as more innovative suggestions.
Each member of your team is given three or four opportunities to vote for their favorite ideas. One way to help narrow down even further is to number the votes from 1 -3 or 1 - 4, 1 being their top choice. Then the voting can begin, either by placing a post-it, writing a number, or making a dot next to the corresponding idea(s) that they like. This process ensures every team member has an equal say in choosing the top solutions.
Idea Affinity Maps
An idea affinity map helps make sense of a ton of information and ideas, especially if there is a variety of different opinions, insights, and perspectives. Affinity maps help bundle and group information and can be one of the most valuable methods to employ.
There are endless other collaborative exercises that can be used to promote creativity and collaboration, including Bingo Selection, Now Wow How Matrix and the Lean Startup Machine Idea Validation Board. The thing to keep in mind is how powerful it is to bring in creative collaboration into a workspace when you’re unsure what the best solution is. When you're open to a variety of perspectives and types of solutions, you are encouraging a way of thinking that fosters innovation, creative thinking, and trust in order to navigate ambiguity in a positive and productive way.
Collaborate with Others Using CloudApp
Collaboration, speed, effective communication, and consistency are essential components of any successful project. There are endless ways where CloudApp can enhance your team’s development. Keep everyone on the same page by utilizing the right platform. CloudApp offers a variety of features so you can create, annotate, and share screenshots, GIFs, video snippets, and screen recordings with others. It can also be easily integrated with a number of other platforms to increase productivity, creativity and collaboration.
We believe that the time you take investing in teamwork is well worth it. Learn more about CloudApp for designers here.