The Lessons We Learned from our Recent Collaborative Work

5 July 2019. Posted in Industry by
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Creative collaboration is a powerful way of working, through which ideas can be exchanged; it enables people to develop their skills and broaden their scope of creative ideation and implementation. Since three brains are better than one, collaboration facilitates conceptualisation, making it relatively easy to come up with a concept for a project or a pitch. Kaitoma recently collaborated with another communications agency, and we walked out of that experience with valuable lessons that we believe are worth sharing.

The benefits of working collaboratively

Our first meeting was equivalent to a blind date: two Johannesburg-based agencies coming together, having not known each other well enough to know what to expect but being similar enough to be confident that our collaborative synergies will yield worthwhile results. With our mission in mind, we started exchanging ideas, and each individual was tasked with coming up with a concept for the campaign, which we would pitch to the potential client. After hours of conceptualising and writing, going back and forth from drawing board to drawing board, we eventually came up with a concept, and accompanying visuals and copy, with which both parties were well pleased. 

So, what are the benefits of collaboration between two creative businesses? We’re glad you asked. Below are some of the benefits that we drew from our experience. 

You get to see your strengths and areas of improvement

In as much as everyone on both sides of the collaboration has a formidable, creative mind, there are still gaps that exist because no one is omniscient. One person’s strength is the solution to the gaps in another person’s area of improvement—this is one of the most significant benefits of collaborative work. As the Kaitoma team, we found that working with another creative agency helped us identify our blind spots and enabled us to reflect on our areas of improvement and respond accordingly by identifying ways in which we can become better at creative ideation and the implementation thereof. More than making us aware of our areas of improvement, the collaboration was a refreshing reminder of the fact that “we are really good at what we do; we just need more opportunities,” as noted by our managing director, Paul Moeng

Collaboration adds to your creative artillery 

As observed by Kaitoma’s brand manager, Neo Moloko, creative collaboration gives you “insight into the way other people think, and you get exposed to a different way of doing things;” this is beneficial because it broadens your scope and lends to skills development, as it pertains to working towards meeting the requirements of a brief. You realise that there is a more efficient and effective way of approaching a project. There are lessons enclosed in the experiences of other people; collaborative work uncovers those lessons and enriches the minds of all parties involved. The collaboration may come to an end after the project is complete, but the knowledge and ideas that are shared stay with you forever. 

A meaningful relationship is forged

In the creative space, collaboration becomes all the more powerful because when creative minds gather in a concentrated space, so many more ideas are generated and “meaningful connections happen faster.” A team that comprises different skills and talents has much to bring to a project, but when that team joins forces with an equally knowledgable and competent team, success is sweeter, and a meaningful connection is formed. This connection is essential because it creates a place for unity within the creative industry, which is necessary for the growth of the creative economy. 

The challenges we faced

When two different parties come together to work on a project, challenges are inevitable because there is a difference in approach, thinking, and culture. Below are some of the challenges that we had to work through without compromising the collaborative process. 

It took time to build trust

As suggested by Kaitoma’s operations manager, Lerato Matu, “When you start a collaboration, it’s important to establish what each party is good at doing.” Each party has a responsibility to understand the other; look at their work, understand who they are, what they stand for, and how they work. Find ways to harness the similarities and identify ways to manage the differences in a productive manner. Once this is done, you will be able to trust the other team’s creative direction because you know that they are speaking from a place of knowledge. If you are not at all familiar with the other team, it will take time to built trust, and this will slow down the collaborative process. 

Getting buy-in from everyone on the team

When two different ways of thinking are brought into one room, they don’t coalesce seamlessly because, most of the time, people are set in their ways and there is comfort in doing things a certain way because it has worked for you for so long. We found that we had to be open-minded and patient when the other team questioned our methods. It was easy for us to suggest a way of working because it had worked for us, but we had to explain it to the other team in a way that would make them see why and how our idea would work; this took time away from production as we had to convince them that our suggestions were evidenced-based, thereby making them worth implementing. 

Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth

While working collaboratively yields more results than working alone, we found that it was hard to agree, initially, because both teams comprised strong-willed and opinionated personalities; this slowed down the process because it took time to make a final decision on what the outcomes of the projected needed to be, furthermore, it took time to produce quality work and ensure that we meet the deadline.  

Despite the challenges, collaborating with another agency proved to be an insightful and enriching experience. We learned a lot about ourselves and got exposed to more effective ways of working on a campaign. Moreover, we got to see how other creatives think, and we were able to identify gaps in the way that we had been operating, creatively and practically. 

Collaboration is needed in the creative industry

Creative collaboration dispells the misconception that all creatives are the same—far from it! Creativity manifests itself in a myriad of ways and tapping into that diversity of expression can lead to favourable outcomes, from which all parties can benefit. As articulated by Kaitoma’s managing director, Paul, collaboration is “very important in the South African context because it allows you to be an even bigger consortium. He goes on to add: “If four or five agencies work together, they would be a force in the competitive space, especially where pitches are concerned. If we come together, we’ll stand a better chance because we’d have more brains and resources on the project.”

Collaborating with another creative business reminded us that the creative space is multi-faceted, with varying types of thinkers and creators—collaborative work leverages off of this creative vastness to produce ideas and projects that have the potential to leave an indelible mark on South Africa’s creative industry. 

Reference: 

Wolff, B. (2018). The Future Of Work Is Creative Collaboration. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/benjaminwolff/2018/08/14/the-future-of-work-is-creative-collaboration/#65e59ad63228 

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