“Collaboration is in. But it may not be conducive to creativity.”
That was the teaser for a recent (Jan. 15) New York Times article on “Groupthink.” And it got me thinking about whether collaboration truly is the enemy of creativity.
I suppose it depends on how you choose to define collaboration and what your objectives are. But if you’re talking about sharing ideas to create better communications, then I believe getting together as a group with the people who know the subject matter and the audience is a critical exercise — especially if you want to engage and delight your readers.
Here are the three essential activities that writers, editors, and communications professionals must pursue to create successful messages for your audience:
1. A “discovery” session. This is the “client briefing” where you and your technical experts talk about your message and your audience in detail, what you want to achieve, what your thoughts are on how to achieve it, and what documentation you have to support your arguments. (This is akin to “groupthink,” I suppose, but it can help you get everything out on the table and it gives everyone lots of information to fuel #2 below.)
2. Interviews and exploration. After the brief, the writers and/or editors for the project will typically retreat to their offices (or cubes) to review the data they’ve been given and call the experts for their views (taking copious notes and/or recording the interviews). They’ll also take a look at what’s available on the Internet from others — including any similar information from your competitors. These activities often uncover promising new insights about a complex issue or a hard to explain topic.
3. Check-in on possible approaches. After processing the information gathered in Steps 1 and 2, the writer will be prepared to share new ideas and possible approaches with you so you can agree on objectives, tone, style, and overall direction before beginning the creative writing process.