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Having it all: Why you don’t have to choose between collaboration and creativity
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Having it all: Why you don’t have to choose between collaboration and creativity

Collaboration and creativity go hand in hand. Here’s how you can improve performance by getting your teams to work together more creatively.

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Back in 1925, surrealist artists Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prévert, André Breton, and Marcel Duchamp came up with a game called Cadavre Exquis, or the Exquisite Corpse.1 Each participant draws a part of the body on a piece of paper, folds it, and passes it on. Then, the next person adds to it without seeing the previous sketch.

For example, if you’re the first to play, you draw the head, fold the paper to hide your contribution, and hand it over. The next person draws the torso, folds, and passes to someone else. Repeat until you have a complete body. The results are often unusual, sometimes surprising, and usually hilarious. 

The game is a perfect example of how collaboration and creativity go hand-in-hand to produce results no one person would have come up with on their own. 

There’s no need to choose one over the other in business, either. Teams that work together in innovative, imaginative ways can improve both their results and their connection to  work.2 

In this piece, you’ll learn how collaboration can benefit all your teams and your business, and how to approach collaboration in a more creative way. 

Collaborate more creatively beyond traditional brainstorming sessions.
Switchboard’s digital workspace lets you work side-by-side without sharing your screen.
Learn more

What is creative collaboration? 

Creative collaboration is the process of working in groups to complete tasks or solve problems in an innovative way. The goal is for each person to use their unique skills, artistic vision, and experience to do creative work or come up with novel ideas and solutions. 

You can also use creative collaboration to get any cross-functional teams working together better, even if creativity isn’t their original remit. Let’s say you want to launch a marketing campaign using artificial intelligence (AI) tools. Your social media manager can ask ChatGPT for campaign ideas, pick one, refine it, and share it with the design and animation team. As a result, you get a 30-second animation of an advert with original designs. 

How does collaborative creativity impact company performance? 

Just like an “exquisite corpse” can turn individual scribbles into a collaborative piece of art, creative collaboration turns individual ideas into innovative revenue-generating solutions. This happens thanks to the cross-pollination of ideas, which gives your team the opportunity to learn from one another. Here are some other ways that creative collaboration can improve performance—and your business: 

Overcome challenges faster 

Your team members all have different points of view and unique skill sets. When you collaborate creatively, you can leverage these to look at challenges from different angles and overcome them faster. 

You can also use creative collaboration to anticipate potential problems. For example, let’s say your product supply (PS) department is struggling to calculate demand for a specific product. They’re worried they’ll produce more than they can sell or will need to stop production and the raw materials will expire. To avoid this they bring in the sales team and jointly run a 5 Whys analysis, asking successive “why” questions until they get to the root cause of the problem. Input from sales reps helps PS understand when, how, and why clients buy their product, so they can better understand changing demand. This lets PS plan better and avoid potential hiccups. Could they have got there on their own? Sure, but it would have taken longer and used more resources. 

More innovation, better products 

Bringing people together and promoting creative collaboration opens the door to new ideas and innovation. For example, if your salespeople start to hear prospects complaining about your competitor’s customer support, your marketing team can use that info to design ads highlighting your fast response times. Or you can use that data to inform product decisions like adding a bot to the product for in-app support.  

When you get more diverse perspectives during product ideation, you’ll develop features that more people will actually use. This means you can target a wider audience and improve your sales and market share. 

For this kind of creative collaboration to happen, you need to create a space where people can get together and share information and ideas. The right platform can be a catalyst for creative collaboration by providing a place for people to find each other, brainstorm, and work together. 

Switchboard is a virtual collaboration workspace where people can share and work together side-by-side on browser-based files, documents, and apps without sharing screens. This makes for more engaging, productive meetings and project work sessions. Because the persistent rooms save your work, you save time setting up rooms and sharing materials. It also means anyone can jump in and work async whenever they need.

Screenshot of a Switchboard meeting using tldraw whiteboard
Use Switchboard’s whiteboard functionality to draw a mind map and add creative ideas to it. Source: Switchboard

Put ideas into practice faster 

Collaborating with others lets you find solutions and implement them faster. For example, when your marketing department works with client-facing account managers, someone in marketing can pitch an idea and quickly get it in front of the client for approval. Being supported like this reduces frustration and time-to-implementation and is more rewarding for employees. Not to mention clients! 

To implement cross-functional collaboration processes, you can create an ideation board in your persistent Switchboard room. This might be a visual collaboration tool like a whiteboard, a document, or a spreadsheet where people can add their thoughts in real time or async. 

Working in this way lets you collaborate to find solutions to improve internal workflows or products. One person can leave an idea for another to check out later and get the ball rolling on implementation. 

Also, when you use dedicated, persistent Switchboard rooms, you can keep all your materials there. This means nobody needs to go digging around in other tools to find the info they need to action an idea, allowing you to communicate in context and move projects forward faster. 

Greater productivity 

According to Howspace’s State of Collaboration Report, 76% of employees say they enjoy collaboration that makes them perform better. Finding creative ways to do this can lead to:

  • Faster problem-solving. When you look for solutions in groups, you get to see things from different perspectives and solve problems in less time.
  • Better processes. Having more eyes on your workflows helps spot problems and potential bottlenecks that you can eliminate or simplify.
  • Faster decision-making. Looking at issues from multiple perspectives provides more information faster, so you can make decisions quicker.
  • Improved knowledge transfer. When people collaborate with each other they inevitably learn from one another, making all your team members more skilled and knowledgeable. 

All this can have a positive impact on overall productivity and profits. When people learn from others and can access support to solve problems, they spend less time on tasks. For example, a new employee might need a few hours to write a report if they aren’t familiar with the tools or the subject matter. If they collaborate with a coworker, however, they can get help to find what they need and complete the task faster. This knowledge will then stand them in good stead for similar future tasks. 

Happier, more satisfied teams—and customers 

Studies show that people are more satisfied with their jobs when they get to work with and learn from others. This leads to happier teams with higher retention rates. If people are happy with their jobs, they’ll be more motivated to come up with ideas, go the extra mile, and help others. This results in improved ROI on hiring costs and more knowledgeable and experienced teams.

When your employees work together effectively, they can also solve problems faster, resulting in an improved customer experience. For example, if someone from the marketing team notices that the website’s “Contact us” form isn’t working, they can create a ticket for the developers to look into it and solve it.

Better business performance and ROI 

When you’re innovative and productive and can act fast, you should see an increase in your business performance. Building better products, developing less biased ideas, and having a good reputation can positively impact your sales and, therefore, profitability. 

How to improve creative collaboration in your company 

You already know how collaborating with creative professionals or cross-functional teams can help your business. Now, it’s time to learn how you can foster a culture where people are energized by teamwork. Here are eight ways to improve collaboration skills in your company: 

Create the right environment 

Create an environment where people are energized by teamwork and keen to work together. To do so, get inspired by real-life collaboration examples like setting shared goals, editing process templates in a group, or having quarterly in-person meet-ups. 

But encouraging people to work with others isn’t enough; you also need to provide them with the right tools. According to a Microsoft study, 59% of workers think the tools they use don’t align with the way they prefer to work as they don’t integrate easily with other apps. Take the time to test different collaboration tools and choose one that your team is excited to use—this reinforces the idea that collaboration is important at your company. 

Many businesses use a note-taking app like Notion, a project management tool such as Asana, and a video conferencing app like Meet to work together. However, many traditional video conferencing platforms aren’t great for collaboration. This is because one person ends up having control of the meeting while others just watch them share their screen. 

The Microsoft study also shares that 9/10 people prefer a centralized platform for collaboration. As an alternative to traditional video conferencing tools, invest in a digital collaboration workspace like Switchboard. It acts as a central hub where you can bring all your browser-based collaboration apps together, with no need for integrations. It also comes with built-in features like a virtual whiteboard, polls, and sticky notes for brainstorming.

Screenshot of a brainstorming meeting on Switchboard
In Switchboard, you can review files, have meetings, and brainstorm using features like polls and sticky notes. Source: Switchboard

Establish psychological safety 

To create a space for collaboration, you need to first make sure your team feels safe and comfortable to speak their minds.

In a psychologically safe work environment, people feel okay to be honest, share opinions, take risks, and make mistakes without fear of ridicule or retaliation. 

One way to create a culture of psychological safety is by having shared company values that include things like seeing feedback as a gift, respect, and open, transparent communication. You should also encourage all managers to be caring and polite and turn mistakes into learning opportunities. For example, if your direct report makes a mistake, say “It’s okay. Do you know how to fix it, or do you want me to help you?” instead of “I knew you’d mess this up. Go away and get it fixed.” 

Connect your people 

Create spaces for people to get to know each other in a work and social setting. The more your team connects with each other, the more accountable they feel and ready to help each other. For example, when John met Luis from sales for an informal chat, he found out Luis is great with spreadsheets. That means John can ask Luis for help the next time he’s stuck on a formula and, because they have a connection, Luis is happy to help. 

One way to bring your people together is by starting team meetings with an icebreaker. For example, ask people to share the story of their worst trip or recommend something they’ve tried, watched, or read recently. Use the Switchboard icebreaker questions generator to come up with ideas. You can also set a persistent room in Switchboard for game nights, team building activities, or water cooler chats.

Screenshot of two people on a Switchboard meeting using the icebreaker question generator feature
Switchboard rooms have an integrated icebreaker question generator to help you start fun conversations with your team. Source: Switchboard

Eliminate silos 

You can’t collaborate with others if you don’t know what they do, who they are, or how they can help. A good way to break up siloed work is by building cross-functional teams for project work, ideation, or feedback sessions. For example, you could get your development team involved in marketing conversations about product positioning so they can learn which features to develop or create. 

Encourage creative problem-solving 

Create and assign tasks for people to share their ideas and solve problems in groups. For instance, if you sell e-books and see a drop in sales, set up a meeting with sales, marketing, and developers to conduct a Root Cause Analysis (RCA). This involves reviewing the causes for a change in a project or a particular incident. Invite them to your dedicated Switchboard room, open the RCA template, and ask everyone to contribute solutions. Best of all, you can do this without switching between apps and tabs. It’s all right there in the room.

Screenshot of a team working on a root cause analysis on Switchboard
Use Switchboard to work on files and allow everyone in the room to edit them without sharing your screen. Source: Switchboard

Include feedback into your processes 

Feedback shouldn’t be something you give your direct reports only a couple of times per year in performance reviews. A psychologically safe workplace encourages people to seek and give feedback proactively. 

To make this part of everyday work–and a learning opportunity–implement retrospectives or health checks on projects after every sprint or quarter to find areas of improvement with your teams. You can also have an anonymous feedback form on your website or HR platform for employees to provide their thoughts on anything from your new feature release to the company direction. 

If you work with clients, you should also provide a space for them to share their thoughts. For example, if you sell social media management services, create a step in the process where clients can review and approve content before you publish.

Align departmental goals with company ones

According to the Howspace report mentioned above, 81% of employees want to feel they’re contributing to bigger objectives. To make collaboration more appealing, you can assign individual goals that contribute to a bigger company objective. 

For example, if you want to reach $1 million in sales, and you have four sales reps, set individual goals for each one to close deals of up to $250,000. This helps you reach more challenging targets and builds a sense of community within your team: Each person’s win contributes to them winning as a group. 

Lead by example 

The best way to encourage teamwork in your company is by doing it yourself. This means working with team members or other leaders, inviting everyone to review processes and ideas, and acting on feedback. 

For example, imagine you’re the head of marketing and are building a process for sending automated emails. But you’re not scheduling the emails; your operations assistant is. Get their opinion first and then iterate and make changes based on their input. Then, let your team know that you have a new process created in collaboration with the operations department. 

Creative collaboration: The key to improving business performance 

You don’t need to have Marcel Duchamp on your team to come up with games like the Exquisite Corpse to make your collaboration processes more creative. You just need to think of teamwork in a more innovative way. This means understanding that collaboration and creativity can go together and that mixing the two can lead to greater productivity, profitability, and more satisfied teams. 

Blending collaboration with creative processes helps overcome challenges faster, solve problems quicker, and build better products and solutions based on diverse inputs.   

To improve collaboration in your company, start by creating the right work environment. Establish psychological safety, bring people together, eliminate siloed work, lead by example, and eat feedback for breakfast. 

Of course, you need to have the right collaboration tools. Switchboard is a collaborative digital workspace where you can work together on all your browser-based files, apps, and documents without the need for integrations or sharing outside the platform. Since everyone can access and edit the files in real-time and async, and save progress in persistent rooms, everything is available from a central location. Which means you can move forward faster, together. 

Collaborate more creatively beyond traditional brainstorming sessions.
Switchboard’s digital workspace lets you work side-by-side without sharing your screen.
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about collaboration and creativity 

How does collaboration inspire creativity?

Collaboration inspires creativity by inviting people to see problems from different perspectives, encouraging idea generation, and leveraging individual skills and interests. For example, when a cross-functional team meets to discuss a business problem, they can share solutions by drawing on their unique backgrounds and perspectives. This can help you come up with more creative, innovative solutions. 

What are some ways in which people can collaborate?

People can collaborate in multiple ways, including:

  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Working towards a common goal
  • Being part of a psychologically safe business environment
  • Using the right tools 
  • Starting a thread asking for help on a certain topic in your corporate group chat
  • Using a digital workspace like Switchboard to work simultaneously on the same files or browser-based apps without sharing screens or switching apps

Stop, collaborate, and listen

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Collaborate more creatively beyond traditional brainstorming sessions.

Switchboard’s digital workspace lets you work side-by-side without sharing your screen.