Can collaborative technology build creative confidence?

Philip Lacor is VP EMEA for Dropbox

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” This will ring true with most adults, where bias and fear of expression can limit the creative process. Our most expressive years are arguably during our childhood when we are free of judgement and more inclined to show creativity.

As personalities develop, labels such as ‘extroverts’ or ‘introverts’, creatives or non-creatives begin to emerge. Although people undoubtedly have strengths and weaknesses, this categorisation can limit the potential of teams to come up with the best ideas. In brainstorms, ideas can be limited if individuals do not feel confident enough to express creative thinking, no matter how abstract.

Ultimately, this means the loudest voices are the ones that end up being heard. Over time, this can lead to an increasingly small pool of creative thought, as a few team members hold the most sway over decisions. It can also cause misalignment as the creative unit becomes detached from the rest of the business.

Rather than seeing teams as an amalgamation of necessary, but inherently contradictory styles, it makes sense to foster an environment that enables all voices to be heard. A collective team of different egos, skills and personalities is more capable of looking at a problem in a variety of ways.

Although this sounds lofty on the surface, collaboration tools are making this possible.

Allowing ideas to flow

While most activities rely on a range of skills and working styles, the typical creative approach does not always squeeze the most out of a team.

In the design process for instance, designers are often briefed and then left to work in isolation. This is an extremely transactional way of working. Not voicing thoughts and ideas throughout the entire process can harm the end result and also the working environment.

Aside from wasting time on corrections and revisions, this can also create misunderstanding and frustration. Over time, this has a significant impact on the quality and speed of creative output.

Cultivating a collaborative culture

In an environment based on emails going back and forth, and calls and meetings limited by time and location, a transactional way of working has been unavoidable. However, by using collaboration tools, a number of employees can work simultaneously on a piece of work and provide input as it develops.

Cloud collaboration tools allow a live document to be viewed and edited within a browser, acting as a canvas for ideas and opinions. As multiple users from across teams can work within a document at the same time, this makes it much easier to communicate, and for input to be provided throughout in real-time.

Rather than a designer being alone throughout the creation stage, they can easily post examples and ask for suggestions from all of the stakeholders involved. If they need clarification on a certain point or issue, other members of the team can provide their input easily through comments. This way, the process becomes much more fluid, with external input being provided more frequently.

Of course, this is not to say that individual skills should be undermined, but instead to foster more understanding and augment the current work. It is true that giving everyone access to everything at all times could create too many cooks. But if input can be added easily for all team members when needed, this can have a positive impact overall.

For global businesses collaborating across continents, a more open creative process is even more important. For example, global design firm, Designit, built its company on a strong belief in collective creativity, however, as its teams expanded, it became increasingly difficult to continue to cultivate this culture globally. In a situation where different time zones and multiple languages limit the possibility of face-to-face conversations, the potential for misalignment is huge. Lack of face time, however, should not be an excuse for lack of creativity. By using collaboration tools the company has enhanced its communication processes across fifteen offices, allowing teams to communicate and brainstorm creative ideas on one platform in real-time, collectively.

Redefining creative teamwork

Ultimately, the success of a creative team relies on working as effectively as possible to reach a common goal. If one voice or section of the business owns all input, this is bound to create stumbling blocks along the way. To quote Sir Ken Robinson, “The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it's to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they're valued.”

Technology can aid creative processes but will see most benefits by allowing employees to think collectively. It is these technologies, which have harnessed a collective ego. Creative confidence can be built when teams are determined to achieve the best work together, overcoming the reservations and anxieties we have as individuals.

Philip Lacor is VP EMEA for Dropbox

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