Stop. Collaborate
and Listen.

Written by Rosie Munro
 March 2020

You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Teamwork makes the dream work”.  

It’s a quote and a book by John C. Maxwell, an American Clergyman.

Well, we completely agree! 

Without collaboration, we wouldn’t be able to move forward. Here’s an example of this in action:

We were recently developing a new product, when our team came to what could only be described as a ‘design block’. It was clear that we needed the whole Design team to collaborate to work through it. Yes, I said the whole team, because sometimes that’s the only way. So we gathered the troops on a Slack call and started collaborating.

Greater than the sum of our parts

By the end of the call we had a game plan, actions for each person, and (not that we knew it yet) even a solution. The fact that we came together to work through our problem meant that it was solved much faster and more successfully. If one person had sat ruminating about this problem, it would probably have driven them mad and taken much longer.

This reminds me of something Josh (our Co-Founder and CDO) has said time and time again, “We are greater than the sum of our parts”, a quote adapted from philosopher Aristotle. Meaning that, together as a team, we bring a variety of qualities that no individual could. And as a result, we are much stronger.

It is because of this mindset that we have developed into the team we are today.

Collaboration has always been at the core of our company and something we truly value.

The word collaboration is defined as “the action of working with someone to produce something”.

It can be intimidating to share authorship with others and allow them to critique your work. But don’t let this hold you back because when done successfully, collaboration will help you gain confidence, share more ideas, and create some incredible work.

From this post, we hope you’ll understand:

  1. Why you should collaborate
  2. How to collaborate successfully
  3. It’s not all about you (sorry!)

1. Let’s start with “why should we collaborate?”

Quite simply, because it makes you and your work better.

Often we are embarrassed to ask for someone’s help or opinion. We worry that we’ll look weak, or bad at our job, or we’re scared that someone will judge us for having a different perspective.

The truth is quite the opposite. By asking for help you are…

  1. putting your ego aside, and…
  2. expanding yourself as a person and employee. (This doesn’t just relate to work! We’re talking about addictions, financials, spirituals, the lot!).

2. How to collaborate successfully

Set your mind.

Before you go into a collaborative session, take a moment to adjust your mindset. To do this, use these simple affirmations:

  • My mind is open
  • No idea is a bad idea
  • Feedback is not personal
  • I am ready to listen

These statements will allow your mind to flow freely through the collaborative conversations without judgement or worry.

It’s easy!

When we worked together in an office, collaborating was as easy as “Hey Emily, can you take a look at this”Now that we’re fully remote it’s even easier, because we can just call each other via Slack, and share our screen.

For us designers, we talk through our work and welcome questions throughout. One of Slack’s great features is the ability to draw on each other’s screens. This feature proves incredibly useful for explaining ideas or pointing to something in particular. Note: Non-designers seem to prefer Google Meet, but c’mon guys, it’s lame – you can’t even draw on it!

Another benefit of presenting your work remotely is that everyone can see your screen clearly. Meaning that we’re not wasting time trying to connect our laptops to the big screens or huddling around one person’s laptop.

Now, this is when it gets daunting…

Haha, get it, Dauntless? Daunting? Nope. Just me? Okay, bye.

Sharing your work is not always fun. We get that. What we really want is to be on an island somewhere, single-handedly creating the best thing that anyone has ever seen and then taking all the credit for ourselves, right? That’s our ego talking.

Let’s remind ourselves of the quote. “A Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts”. You might come up with the next best thing, but I bet at some point you’ll need input from someone else to get the idea over the line.

Feedback hurts. But it doesn’t have to.

This is when having a team that you trust really helps. In order to feel comfortable sharing and asking for feedback we need to trust that our team will not judge or berate us. Three qualities we think make a great collaborative employee are: a willingness to constantly learn and evolve, emotional intelligence and maturity, and an openness to feedback.

The key to receiving feedback is to listen, listen, listen. Whether it’s the CEO or the cleaner who is just leaving the meeting room and pipes up. Whatever people have to say will be valuable, even if you think it isn’t. And here’s why.

Other people’s opinions can:

  • Spark new ideas and solutions
  • Provide new perspectives
  • Affirm the decisions you have already made. For example, someone suggests using the colour red, but you know that red is an inappropriate colour for that business sector.
What’s next?

You’ve shown your work to the team, and you’ve listened. Now what? It’s time to give your feedback or reasoning behind your decisions. And this will probably spark even more conversations and ideas, which will then lead to action points and the cycle continues.

3. Don’t Take it Personally

Us designers can be a sensitive bunch, and when someone criticises our work we tend to take it personally. We’ve poured our heart and soul into these designs and for someone to possibly say something bad about them feels like an attack on us. There’s that ego we were talking about, again. I’m not afraid to admit that this has taken me years to work through, not only as a designer, but as a person too.

So please remember that the feedback people offer is not about you. They are looking at the work and the work only. Try to remove yourself from it and have an invisible boundary.

The Big Idea

Another thing we might beat ourselves up about is coming up with the big idea.

If you are the one who comes up with the idea, it feels cool… really cool. But if you are not, please don’t put yourself down. The reason being, it’s actually very likely that your contribution has led to that final idea in some way. This is why collaboration is brilliant, so don’t let it dishearten you!

At times like these, we like to quote our most prestigious and wise idol – The Lego Movie.

“Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.”

– The Lego Movie

Right, enough rambling.
What are we trying to say?

We hope that you go on to:

1.  Have the courage to discuss and share your work with others
(colleagues, bosses, friends, family, even coffee-shop-strangers)

2.  Teach and share with others how to have these collaborative conversations

3.  Create epic work through collaboration

P.S.
Let’s give credit where credit is due

I’d like to credit Austin Kleon for being a part of the inspiration for this post. Austin Kleon is a New York Times bestselling author of three fabulous books. One being ‘Steal Like An Artist’ which, until now, was subconsciously the inspiration for this blog post.

In the book ‘Steal Like An Artist’, there is a section that talks about the importance of sharing your work with others. It’s such a brilliant book, not just for designers, but for everyone!

If you’re interested in reading it, here’s the link.


Thanks Austin, you’re the bomb!
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We just want you to know we’re here for you especially in these uncertain times. We can help you take your business digital at a time when you need it most.