How to Overcome 3 Very Human Barriers to Creative Success

Breakthrough ideas come from collaboration

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Ranjith Kumaran, CEO, Hightail

We’re in the middle of a content explosion driven by technology. From hardware like HD video on your phone to software that makes anything from image manipulation to video editing easy, anyone can create halfway decent content.

But great content, the kind that truly stands out, still comes from the the minds—and hands—of humans. First there’s the creativity of the individual, but even more important on the path from good to great, are the breakthrough ideas that result from collaboration.

Yet, creative collaboration is also hindered by those same human factors that make it so valuable. Here are three such factors:

Creativity is messy

The creative process rarely follows a linear path. It has dead ends, regressions, moments of inspiration and long hours of nothing at all. This makes it difficult to manage, much to the chagrin of marketing managers waiting on the content that will kick-start their campaigns. Though creatives may argue that too rigid a process stifles the creative spirit, if there is a lack of structure, the inevitability of deadlines and budgets can lead to suboptimal work.

Creative teams are fluid

Marketing organizations are rarely blessed with all the different creative and technical expertise needed to develop content. The multichannel world demands content in all its forms, so a range of skills from digital design to filmmaking are all required at different times. Forced to draft in outside agencies, freelancers and contractors, creative teams are hard to pin down in terms of geography, technology and process, making collaboration that much harder.

Clients don’t get it

The most critical collaborator on any creative project is the client or stakeholder who commissioned it. Yet, the ultimate approver often doesn’t understand the creative process, takes too long to provide feedback and is ambiguous about approvals. Scarred by such experiences, creative teams often wait until their work is more fully formed before sharing it, which reduces the client’s potential input and risks all the team’s hard work being brutally rejected.

These factors combined means project delays, bad work and unsatisfactory results. What if there was a better way and, as with the authoring stage, technology could provide the impetus?

Creativity has been mostly neglected by the software revolutions that have transformed collaboration in areas like sales (Salesforce) and coding (Github). This has a lot to do with those previously discussed barriers but, with a little help from technology, these human problems are far from insurmountable.

Creative collaboration is being liberated by innovative new services that help bring creative teams, clients and other stakeholders together in a place dedicated to discussion, review and approval of creative work. But for these tools to be successful, businesses need to resolve those human problems.

Opening the collaboration curtain

If creativity is messy, then it’s understandable why creative teams may want to hide the process from clients and partners. Yet, opening the curtain and allowing more participation in the exchange of opinions and ideas is the only way to ensure that you achieve a project’s stated goals. Access to early drafts and conversations allow clients to guide the process so there are no wasted weeks of work that result in a “don’t like it” review. Sure, it will involve some imposition of structure but this will also benefit collaboration. If the process side runs smoothly, there’s more time for creativity.

Developing new creative habits

“Creative team” is sometimes a misnomer. It implies more unity of process and practice than is the case in reality. The demand for multimedia content means marketers must work with a range of creatives, from digital designers to video producers, who have little crossover in processes and tools. Additionally, many will be external partners, and the likelihood of having practices in common decreases further. Collaboration tools can be great neutral grounds for these various teams to work together, but first, you’ll have to persuade them to break the habits of a lifetime and adopt a new way of working.

Explaining what makes good feedback

Good creators understand the power of collaboration and how insightful feedback from a client will only enhance the final work. After all, who knows the brand better than the marketing team? But the common complaint that the client “just doesn’t get it” is often true. Not because clients don’t understand their brand, but simply because they don’t understand the creative process. Creatives aren’t used to telling clients what to do, but taking the time to educate them about what good feedback looks like and how to think about each stage of the process will make for a better review stage.

Overcoming these oh so human factors and using collaboration technology to unite everyone on the team in one place results in a smoother and more effective creative process. By tearing down the creative collaboration barriers, everyone gets more time to create their best work that beats the deadline, is within budget and achieves its goal.

Ranjith Kumaran, the CEO of Hightail, 10 years ago created a simple way to send large files that grew into a service used by 45 million people and 150,000 companies worldwide. Now, he has returned to the company he co-founded to lead it into a future based around creative collaboration.