Short post, haven’t done anything for a while, I’m managing 25 people is my reasoning, but something new needs to go here none the less. So let’s go!!
I’ve had a really successful holidays and beginning of this uni trimester working with lots of different, cool and interesting people. Collaboration is something that I was never great at, but I feel I’m getting significantly better at it. This is a handful of dot pointed tips on what I’ve learned for a successful collaborative process.
If it’s your project originally and you’re getting someone else involved, figure out what’s important to you, what’s your stake in it, and what is just the vehicle to make that happen.
I’ve been dealing with a lot of narrative stuff lately, and I feel this is a prime example of the above. I have a few very pivotal things I want to see happen in the story. Sometimes these are plot points, others might be overall tone or message. Everything else is structure, or a method of delivery. Figuring out what must be kept for you to still have a stake is a good thing, because there’s no point in collaborating if you end up disengaging with the project. But know your reasoning, WHY are these important to you. Be able to talk about it top to bottom from every angle. If you can’t answer everything about it, it loses its weight with your collaborator and probably wasn’t that important to you in the first place. Everything else, be loose, be open. One of the reasons you collaborate is to push that other stuff that you’re not so on top of to a greater place!
Have a clear understanding of roles, who has what strong points and what are they best suited to do.
One of the principle reasons I see collaborations fail is because you have two insanely talented people in the same place at the same time with the same knowledge and the same roles. As much as they might get along, there’s not a lot one can bring to the other in terms of the collaboration. Having an understanding of who you’re working with, why and how you’ll go about it will help you identify really early on if things are going to work. Even if it’s a case of the project being so big that you can’t do it by yourself, still take the time to define what those involved will be doing.
Understand that the person you’re collaborating with has different knowledge and might need to enter the discussion from a completely different angle. Take the time to understand the background to entering like that.
I’m a digital games guy but one of the people I work with a lot is from a non-digital games background. We work really well together, but I do sometimes need to step back from the actual problem we’re focusing on and make sure I understand what knowledge and experience she’s leveraging. This really comes down to trying to understand what the other person is saying as best as possible. An idea she might put forward might sound rather frivolous in my background of digital games, but once I understand how she’s seen that idea implemented in another medium, we can bring the good things of that into a digital space. Otherwise I would be referencing solely off a digital game, which (let’s face in) there’s a lot of things we’re not great at implementing in a rewarding way.
Communicate consistently in a way that works for both people.
Really obvious but I see this one not happen a lot. As much as we all love the romanticized perfect creative partner who always understands what you’re thinking even when you’re on the other side of the planet, chances are that won’t be the case. Always be in communication on elements and plans of the collaboration, keep your person (or people) in the loop of where you want to push to. But this doesn’t mean 4AM phone calls and Facebook messages all day long every time a little thing pops into your head. Make specific times to talk, doesn’t have to be formal meeting times or anything fancy. Just that ‘Okay, around this time, this is where we’re going to put things on the table and bounce ideas around’ sort of thing.
A few reason for this, first of all it’ll stop you just throwing things out there that aren’t really fully formed ideas at the drop of a hat. Secondary, it’ll give your collaborator their own head space to ponder and think on things. Thirdly you don’t know what’s going on in their life every second. Trying to pitch ideas at the worst possible moment will end in those ideas not being given the time they deserve, and even worse, if you move on things based on that conversation, it might end up steering you in the wrong direction!
So there we go, a few short thoughts on collaboration. These work for me, I have no idea if they’ll work for everyone, but there they are!