In any organization, collaboration is a key to both improved productivity and heightened creativity. In other words, we all know the importance of effective collaboration but, oddly, it’s not a skill that is singled out for improvement. The assumption is that since the stakes are high and collaboration is known to be helpful, we’ll all collaborate and collaborate well. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Collaboration is based on the bedrock principles of trust, courtesy and support but in the heat of battle these can go out the window to the detriment of everyone involved. When I lead businesses and organizations through the process of learning to write songs, what I emphasize beyond the improved ability to innovate and greater creative confidence is the power of effective collaboration. I’ve listed a few things to remember if your hope is for a positive and productive collaborative experience.
You don’t have to do it alone
In the early days of learning my songwriting craft, I took on far too much responsibility in the co-writing process. Because songwriting was so important to me, I rarely took the time to consider my collaborators’ suggestions. This was a mistake that resulted in lackluster songs and uninspired co-writes. Over time, however, I learned to step back and make room for my co-writers’ suggestions. This worked on multiple levels. First, my co-writers felt valued which immediately improved their enthusiasm and secondly, their contributions were often significantly better that anything I could have come up with on my own. It takes a certain amount of self confidence – and even bravery – to open up your work to others but the rewards are undeniable.
There’s nothing that kills momentum on a project more quickly than perfectionism. In songwriting, squeezing too hard on any one line of the lyric can stall out the entire process. I’ve learned that the best approach is to write a “good enough” line and keep moving forward with the understanding that I can always go back later once the song is complete and continue to edit and refine. All this to say, collaborations work best when no one is too precious about any one thing. We all know how important the work is but unless and until we can gain a little momentum, it will be hard to make any significant progress.
Make sure everyone feels safe (and even expected) to contribute
Remember to keep an eye/ear out for the quiet members of your team. Everyone has different ways of working and if the process isn’t open to any and all contributions you could be missing some of the best. Since it’s rare that any of my business clients knows how to write songs, everyone – no matter what their position in the organization – is on a level playing field and is expected to contribute. What I’ve found is that brilliance can come from the least likely contributors and it’s only because they’ve been given the space – and safety – to speak up that their contributions are heard and add beautifully to the process.
Collaboration is as much an art as it is a tool for good business. Taking the time to improve your collaborative skillset will pay multiple dividends. Not only will your collaborations be more productive but you’ll also enjoy them a lot more. Even though the projects your team will face are certainly serious work, I’ve found that the best efforts come when everyone is relaxed and enjoying the collaboration. I owe my most significant songwriting achievements to great collaborations and I wish the same for you.
Find out more about Cliff’s innovation & creativity workshops for business teams and organizations.