It’s often said that one of the defining characteristics of our culture today is narcissism. We’re all so wrapped up in our own lives and wants that we forget about others.

On some level this is definitely true. We’re all unique individuals and it’s natural to want credit for the contributions we make. Who wants to be just a boring cog in the wheel? But throw a bunch of people with various skills, ideas and beliefs into a room (or an online community) and you often get amazing results.

Put simply, how humans collaborate has profound implications for how we live and work. And resistance to its power is futile, because it’s already happening…every second of every day with nearly every major global brand. 

Coca-Cola and Heinz, NASA and Lego, Reebok and Marvel Comics, Microsoft and Toyota have all joined forces and collaborated on major projects. Like artists in the music industry, there’s almost always a commercial interest or brand building aspect, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t created new worlds.

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What stops collaboration from happening?

It’s easy to look at huge brands with massive resourcing and think, ‘We can’t get the same results as them!’ It all seems so pie-in-the-sky. In truth, it’s less about the resources at your disposal than a narrow leadership mindset.

It has to be approached in a way which truly embraces a co-creation framework, such as:

  • establishing rapport and trust among the team with creative, imaginative exercises – and not just at the outset, but all the way through a new project
  • appreciating different collaborative styles – some people are happy to speak their mind, others will take an idea and run with it
  • keeping the spark alive and the momentum going – people are quick to see through a superficial one-off brainstorming session

So are agencies embracing collaboration?

Progressive agencies are operating this way, encouraging their staff to feel a part of the process, contribute, and in many cases deliver exciting results for their clients.

Whether the new idea comes from your media partner, finance department or a clear-eyed intern, it doesn’t matter – it’s not about who has an idea, but how you can facilitate it. Innovation here is rooted in a collaborative foundation.

These agencies understand that because communication is so abundant and essentially free, stakeholder engagement – which is just a fancy way of saying “anyone who might conceivably be interested in a new project” – can now be scaled to previously unthinkable levels.

So don’t let those ideas evaporate…collaborate and listen!