When people think of collaboration, they often think of the sharing of ideas together sitting around a table. But often collaboration can just mean working together on a project that has already been defined, and hoping to make it the best it can be along the way by working together. However, actually sharing within that environment requires an extra level of vulnerability. It requires you to risk giving away your best idea, questioning someone else,s, or revealing your secret sources. All too often collaboration is limited to working together to produce something, when really it's an opportunity create through learning from one another.
Don't limit yourself to successes.
We all like success stories, especially when they're our own. We love to celebrate when our team or someone on it succeeds, but do we value the failures as highly? Often these are the lessons and advice that no one wants to learn from, but they're a crucial part of the creative ideation process. Nothing tells you what could work more than finding out what doesn't. The more you can separate what won't be effective, the more you can focus on the right answer. Experimenting in the creative process is essential, and digging into the reason why someone wouldn't/didn't work is crucial to a trajectory of continuous improvement.
Don't just share your successes, share where you've failed, what didn't work, and why. Show people that you value them enough to prevent them from having to make the same creative mistakes that you did. Providing a place of trust and honesty is so valuable in a vulnerable team environment. If people don't feel it's safe to fail, they'll always be hesitant to take risks, and risks are what keep us pushing forward. Give your team the gift of going second in sharing their failures—for me, that is collaboration.
Sharing may result in stealing.
And that's ok. Your ideas may get taken when you share, but isn't the purpose of a team to run with the best idea possible? If you're keeping great ideas to yourself you're not only cheating your team, you're cheating yourself. Our ideas can feel like our currency in a creative world, we can feel like it's what gives us value.
It's not about us, it's about our team. Giving away your ideas keeps you creating by forcing you to come up with new ones. If you always live in the world of giving away your best ideas, you'll always be looking for another one, in which case everyone wins. Giving away what you think is your best idea often is what makes room for your next one. Creating a culture where there is value to giving away your ideas helps your team realize that it's safe for them to give their best idea to you.
Sharing your thoughts on someone else's work is essential to them improving. I can't think of an instance when someone has given me brutally honest feedback on something and it didn't make the design better. It can confirm a suspicion you were trying to ignore, or at least make you question the 'why' behind what you're designing. The truth, the best, the greatest has nothing to hide. Question everything and naturally the greatest ideas will float to the top.
We all have places books where we go to be inspired. For some it's a location, being around certain people, a folder you have stashed in Dropbox, Dribbble, or some other well-curated website of visual goodness. While it's tempting to hoard that inspiration to yourself, we have to share it. We're in this together, and what good are we if we don't keep the greater goal in mind. Akin to the idea of sharing your ideas, it gets the best ideas out there, keeping you on a constant pursuit for what's next. That my friends is what keeps you innovating, what keeps you searching, learning, experimenting.
Don't just work beside the people, work with them and learn from them. Being a part of team can be the most valuable asset of a creative, don't squander the opportunity to improve with the help of those around you by trying to go it alone.