A Creative’s Guide to Collaboration

April 30, 2019 | by Todd Pierce

I am sure everyone has heard the old saying “there is no I in TEAM”—and yes I can feel your eyes rolling just thinking about it. Whether the statement is dated or not, the meaning still speaks the truth. Being a designer may seem like a very independent type of work, and although many designers tend to work on their own, teamwork can be incredibly beneficial to all. Brainstorming with creatives who have a similar mindset, but different skills or experience, can have a drastic influence on overall productivity. Even if you’re not a creative agency, you can probably learn a lot from our approach to collaboration.


Source: Saleforce; Photo credit: https://blog.bit.ai/collaboration-statistics/


No two people are the same, and although that may sound like a recipe for conflict, it is actually what makes a team stronger and more versatile. A team member with more in-depth knowledge about a previous experience or another perspective on a situation can provide the team with valuable information to be applied in real time.

However, that is not to say that a diverse team comes without potential pitfalls. One of the biggest issues to overcome is conflict. When a team feels like they have to agree on everything in order to keep the peace, it can discourage creativity and stifle constructive criticism, resulting in mediocre ideas.



Another potential hurdle to overcome when working with various people from various backgrounds is the struggle distinguishing between convergent and divergent methods of thinking. If you tend to be more of an “all over the place” thinker in a room full of “as a matter of fact” thinkers, you run the risk of having arguments and time wasting with non-like-minded individuals. However, as humans, we tend to implement both styles of thinking in order to explore creativity and find solutions, which is a solid foundation for any successful team.



These two distinct thinking styles were introduced by psychologist J.P. Guilford in 1967. He proposed there were two ways to find a solution: Convergent, the straight-forward way, where you find a correct solution by thinking straight-to-the-point while having complete focus on the problem, and divergent, the indirect way, in which you analyze the problem, think of all the possible ways to reach a solution and generate creative ideas to solve it.

A great idea needs enough space to breathe, develop and improve. Teams can get stuck when there isn’t balance between convergent and divergent thinking to motivate exploring solutions from every angle. The fact is, the best teams are diverse in their ways of thinking, skills and expertise.

But don’t just take my word for it. This tried-and-true tactic has been utilized by some of the top companies with top minds. The brilliant minds of Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, who ran Pixar together for over two decades, credit a collaborative environment to their success.


Photo Credit: Everett Collection


Yes, I’m talking about the powerhouse, Pixar, who scored 14 box office hits in a row! In an excerpt from his book, Creativity Inc., Ed Catmull expresses “A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions and criticisms. Our decision making is better when we draw on the collective knowledge and unvarnished opinions of the group.”

One of Pixar’s key mechanisms is braintrust, which they rely on to push them toward excellence and to root out mediocrity. The group meets to assess each movie they’re making. The meeting’s premise is simple: Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems and encourage them to be candid. In the below video, Ed Catmull goes into detail about the success of braintrust and how it came to be.



Collaboration success stories are in abundance, but there is still the potential of chaos if not structured properly. Don’t fret though, we’re here to share a few things you can do to get the most out of your next team meeting.

Tip #1: Build a Foundational Team
A strong underlying foundation brings together teams from different backgrounds or people who may have different metrics for success. If you can agree what the high-level goals are, then you reduce conflicts as you make decisions during the duration of the project.



Tip #2: Suspend Judgement
Keeping your judgement in check can be difficult when hearing an idea from someone in your own discipline, especially for those of you with strong opinions. Suspend judgment for the sake of the idea in order to give it enough time to mature into something greater.



Tip #3: Zoom Out
It’s easy to get caught up in your own craft and lose sight of the bigger picture. Zooming out to see the entire landscape is an important trick to always keep the big picture in perspective. Gaining a new perspective is sometimes the only way to move forward.



By the way, BatesMeron is not one of those companies that simply talks a big game. We practice what we preach—hell, it’s in our manifesto. Not a day goes by where we aren’t trying to get the most creativity out of our team, and believe me, our clients notice. How do we do this? Well, at the start of any big branding project, we begin with a deep dive into your company’s competitors, your business processes, your design hopes and dreams and everything in-between.

We call this our discovery session, and this is where we really get to showcase our creativity and address your main concerns and goals for a successful end result. There are no right or wrong answers, just the ability to let your ideas flow. The next steps vary from project to project, but it always involves a well-oiled team and always starts with a room full of us—with all of our gloriously different perspectives—and an open floor for idea creation.

Here at BatesMeron, we work in tandem, allowing each and everyone one of us to shine at what we do best. If you’re feeling like you’re working alone on your marketing or aren’t getting the positive response that you’d like to be with your brand presence, contact us and our team will help you create something bzzzzzz-worthy!

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