Collaboration: When Does it Work?

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My creative director has an eye for all things shiny and new, in particular objects of a certain fruit-named brand. I suppose he's what used to be referred to as an early adopter—you can imagine the catastrophic distraction followed by sheer smugness over the last few weeks with the launch of a plethora of goodies.

Mock him I may, and, as a producer I should probably be praising him for taking an active interest [albeit self-fulfilling] in emerging technology and innovation. Having an active interest can only benefit creative thinking and thus fuel good ideas. You could argue this is part of a creative's remit, and everyone in this industry for that matter, but it's a bit of a rarity.

However, having an interest in and an understanding of new stuff isn't quite enough: the only real way to grasp fully is to work with other parts of the agency, and the best projects in my humble opinion, are borne of a meeting of minds and fully-fledged collaboration. Leaving all preciousness, pretense, and the fear of loss of ownership on the sideline.

It sounds glaringly obvious, but you'd be amazed at how often this is overlooked. Collaboration can only happen if an agency is completely open to it and flexible enough to facilitate it, and, if individuals are able to let go a little and see the extra input as a plus, and not as an encroachment. A working process still needs to be in place to keep the focus, but a true collaboration should be as organic as possible. Although many disciplines are involved, technical & creative collaboration is possibly the most crucial and oddly, the least explored. The real magic happens when you put a creative and a developer on a brief, the creative with a murmur of an idea married with a developer with a hunger to innovate.

There are arguments against budget concerns, resource issues, inability to co-own an idea, etc. It is understandable that an agency fears collaboration, so why deviate from the tried and tested? Because if the idea is fully scoped and thoroughly thought out from the start, and people feel they can contribute and be involved in something original, there's less chance of its failing.

So what makes a good collaboration? A little give and take? A Lennon and McCartney? Sadly there is no definitive formula [else we would all have sold millions of records]. What it does need is a chance, the right people and a producer for a reality check! Gone are the days of linear timelines and departments creating their part almost in isolation for one another. If each discipline has made their mark and deep rooted their position within an agency then why not put your necks out and give it a try. What's the worst that could happen?

Rachel Bishop is head of production at the U.K.'s Lean Mean Fighting Machine.

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