This is the 21st Century and no one believes in anything anymore, but goddamn it, we here at Maker believe in one thing and that’s the sanctity of the team! We think the best work happens when you have a group of talented-ass people, fish and birds coming together from land, sea and sky, bringing what they have to the table, exchanging ideas and high-fiving. In this blog we’ll explore why the team is a good thing, why it can be a bad thing and give you our top SCIENTIFICALLY CORROBORATED tips on how to make creative collaboration work.
We have always thought people reading those “how to get ahead in business” and “how to manage others effectively” books on the tram were probably secret psychopaths with mother issues. Saying that, this is what we’d like to share what we’ve gleaned about teamwork after over ten years in business.
- YOU CAN’T DO IT ON YOUR OWN. Sorry if we sound like your dad, but the idea of being able to achieve much of creative worth by yourself is an unhelpful one. We like to think of creatives as reclusive geniuses, furtively mind-wanking away in their garrets before begrudgingly revealing their masterpieces to the world. Think Kubrick obsessively photographing every doorway in London to find the perfect entrance for Tom Cruise’s flat in Eyes Wide Shut (they later used a studio build), or even Darwin and his theory of evolution or Emily Bronte writing Wuthering Heights alone on the moors. They are cast by history as loner megalomaniacs who can’t be understood or trifled with by us mere mortals, visionaries placed at a distance. WRONG. Certainly they are very talented individuals, but without his team would Darwin have got to the Galapagos? Would Wuthering Heights have been written without two other writer sisters to encourage, edit and talk with? Would Kubrick have gotten anything made without his trusted team? HECK NO. As Keith Yamashita said in his 99u talk, “Virtually all acts of greatness are the acts of an ensemble.” Having an editor, an ear, a partner or merely someone who can stand to be around you for more than an hour whilst you try to turn your twisted fever-dreams into workable solutions, is an essential element of the creative process.
- FIND PEOPLE NOT LIKE YOU. Diversity in teams is an essential. No one is good at everything (apart from me) and the most diverse teams are the most successful. SCIENCE (the faculty of economics at the Tinbergen Institute in Amsterdam) has shown that a 50/50 gender balance is the most profitable working environment in terms of “sales, profits and earnings per share“ Outside of basic categories like age and gender it’s kind of obvious that those with different skills and interests to you have stuff to offer that you don’t. So whilst you might not want to go to metal gigs and worship at black mass with your sci-fi- loving colleague, you’ll probably do better work with them than you would with someone totally awesome like yourself.
- JUDGE NOT (UNTIL ‘TIS TIME TO JUDGE). This leads on from our point about diversity. It’s good to have a healthy mix of optimists and pessimists on your team, someone to say straight down the line “that idea will never work, you idiot, there is no such thing as a Pyro-copter” and someone to say “But what if…” You need both of those kinds of people to make sure that your project fulfils its potential but also works within its necessary limits. We find it most useful to wheel the naysayer into the delivery room later, not whilst ideas are actually being born. That way after all the optimists are done brainstorming in a non judgmental, free environment there is a chance for ideas to develop before the pragmatists on your team come in and kill the weaklings by dashing their heads against the harsh rocks of reality. (We got that metaphor from the Bible.)
- OSCILLATE WILDLY. Ok we’re probably not the first to think of it but we’re the first to name it after a Smiths song. After years of fucking around with different methods of getting the creative juices flowing (lascivious slide-shows, laudanum etc.) we found the best way to work on ideas for us was thus: You get your creative team, be they two, three or four people, they meet, they discuss, they separate, think, write, then repeat, meet, think, discuss, separate, think, write. This coming together, and then drawing apart delivers the best kind of creative thinking we have found. The wiggly work pattern hereby known as “The Helix” gives you the space to work, ponder and explore uninterrupted, with the knowledge that you get to come back to your team with something new to say. It makes us more productive, we get better, more creative ideas, the introverts get their space to work, the extroverts get their talking time, everyone wins and we go out for milkshakes.
- GATHER ALL THE TEAMS TO MAKE A SUPER TEAM. So there’s the client, there’s the agency, there’s the production company and there’s the social seeders and distributors. They’re all in physically separate and sometimes also mentally separate places, yet they’re all working towards the same goal: make a piece of film that is the best it can be that does what it set out to do. Forming a giant virtual team from all these separate factions not only makes you feel like a power ranger, it is also key to a project going from good to great. Having everyone communicate from the beginning can make a huge difference, e.g., if you are talking to the social seeders from the start and not just at the end when you need to distribute your content, you might get insights into the kind of people who want to see your content, what kinds of things they like and where they watch them, helping you tailor your creative ideas to your audience with distribution in mind before you even set pen to paper. BOING. Keeping the flow of knowledge and ideas as open as possible is for hippies… but maybe they were right about some stuff, in fact studies have shown that virtual teams can out-perform face-to face teams. Take that, reality.
As with everything from masturbation to vegan cooking, there’s a pretty cool app for it which you can check out here, it’s called Team Works and it’s boss. We’d love to know if y’all have any tips or comments about working in creative teams. Our therapists told us we need to listen more, so tell us your collaboration secrets!