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Creative Creativity Collaboration

How to be a green zone chicken: 4 ways to build creativity through collaboration

By Lindsey King, Marketing and innovation strategist



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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June 14, 2022 | 6 min read

Lessons about creativity can come from the most surprising corners of the world - group dynamics among chickens, for example. For The Drum's Creativity in Focus Deep Dive, Lindsey King of agency Coegi looks into the benefits of adopting creative 'green zones' inspired by our feathered friends.

Coegi compare chickens to creativity and share how the former can inspire the latter.

Coegi compare chickens to creativity and share how the former can inspire the latter.

Researchers at Purdue University wanted to know what would happen to egg production if they separated their highest-producing chickens from those producing fewer (but got along with their fellow chickens harmoniously).

As it turned out, the high performers, 'red zone chickens', were only high performers because they bullied the other chickens into stress-induced barrenness. When put into their own group, they antagonized each other into the same egg-less fate.

On the other hand, the harmonious group, the 'green zone chickens', developed into a healthy and productive community. At the end of the experiment, their collaborative nature allowed them to increase their egg production by an impressive 260%.

What does this have to do with creativity? In order to maximize creative output from your team (our industry's equivalent to chicken eggs), you need to create an environment where healthy group dynamic is prioritized over individual performance. To cultivate this green zone for your organization, you need to focus on fostering effective group collaboration. Here are four ways you can build a collaborative mindset into your process.

1. A shared vision

Start each creative project by clearly defining what your version of success looks like and ensuring everyone understands the general path to getting there.

Are you aiming to build brand awareness with an upcoming social campaign? Solving a logistical issue with a new project management software? Whatever it is, make sure everyone is clear on the vision and direction. While this may seem obvious, it's vital that everyone’s creative energy is pointed toward the same goal. This will help the group generate more relevant ideas and help you filter out less effective ones without veering off-course or letting egos get in the way.

2. Bringing together diversity

Invite as much diversity to the table as possible. The best creative ideas will go untapped if only one or two individuals are responsible for coming up with them.

To get the most out of brainstorming, you need a wide variety of voices and perspectives contributing to the conversation. This means intentionally tapping members of different departments, roles, skill sets and life experiences to participate. Invite data analysts, project managers, specialists, designers and strategists to give their input. Each one will be able to see the situation from a different angle, with unique ideas informed by their unique perspectives.

3. Building safety and trust

It's impossible to produce creative ideas if you're stressed. Our nervous systems do not allow it.

Effective collaboration can only happen when everyone, regardless of seniority or personal experience, feels safe to contribute. As with the red-zone chickens, one or two people can dominate creative conversations, causing more reserved members of the team to keep quiet.

To avoid this, minimize hierarchy whenever possible and make clear that everyone’s input is vital. Even if someone recommends a less effective approach, it should be welcomed as a potentially important building block for reaching the final decision.

Remember: defensiveness is the enemy of creativity. Red-zone chickens were initially more productive because they aggressively defended their territory and bullied other chickens. The same can happen at your brainstorming table if someone gets too attached to their own ideas and blocks others from sharing their own.

4. Essence before form

Avoid preconceived notions about what your final product or solution will look like. Focusing on a specific outcome will limit the scope of possible outcomes and could cause you to miss unique opportunities.

Still, it's important to have a moderator available to help identify when the creative ideation is veering off course, resulting in lost time and confusion. In those moments, go back to your vision and direction, focus on the essence of that goal, and let your team’s expertise (and data) guide you to the final destination.

The green light

Building an effective creative green zone takes practice. The first generation of green-zone chickens likely took some time to trust their new circumstances and begin increasing production. It can take time for individuals to feel supported or confident enough to contribute their ideas, especially if the process is new or different from what they have experienced before. But as the team begins to build their creative muscles and trust the process, it gets easier and more effective as time goes on.

Take time to regularly reflect on your collaborative efforts and make tweaks as necessary. Cultivate a green zone for all employees, not just your star performers, and watch even your most analytical thinkers be empowered to bring grade-A ideas to the table.

To keep up to date with all our coverage head over to the Creativity in Focus hub and register for updates on Cannes-Do.

Creative Creativity Collaboration

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