More than ever, we need to collaborate and create ideas that inspire us. I know we are working remotely and things have disrupted our routines, but now is not the time to play it safe creatively. In my 25 years of leading and working with creative teams, domestically and internationally, I have learned that collaboration releases your imagination from creative incarceration. If you are challenged with generating great ideas, take my creative cues to leverage the benefits of collaboration.
Embrace the Unconventional Thinking Maverick
Historically, the term ‘maverick’ had a negative connotation because it was based on a man named Samuel A. Maverick. He was labeled a nonconformist because he refused to accept the conventional practice of branding his cattle. Notwithstanding the reasons for his refusal, it became acceptable to brand a contrary thinker, a person who does not conform to the consensus of a group as a maverick. But when you are seeking great creative ideas, a maverick is exactly who you want on your team. There’s value in embracing the contributions of diverse thinkers because having a different approach or opinion can create new possibilities and new solutions. I love mavericks!
Let’s be clear, I am not talking about a non-team player. A seasoned creative maverick skillfully knows how to buck conventional wisdom to develop solutions for unconventional challenges. They disrupt the intellectual status quo not relationships. The reason some challenges stay unresolved is because they require a different way of thinking, the type of thinking only a maverick can provide. I have worked with plenty of creative mavericks to craft solutions that group thinkers and non-risk takers are fearful of doing because it blows up their comfort zone.
Bring Positive Energy to the Party
“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”― Michael Jordan
Before I expect my team to exert a high level of energy and effort, I roll up my sleeves and lead by example. My philosophy is that you must first give the emotional and intellectual energy you want your team to expend. Leadership is all about influencing others to be their best. Think of collaborating as having a party with your team’s imagination. You have to be the one to bring the fire to ignite the grill that gets the creative ideas cooking. This is what creative directors do. When confronted with a challenge, if your team sees you exhibiting good energy along with a positive attitude, then they will model your example. Experts say that 70% of communication is non-verbal, so the vibe you give is crucial to develop great creative energy. Your energy signals to the team that the problem is either bigger or smaller than their creative power. Remember, your role in the collaboration process is to empower your team to do great things and that starts with the energy you bring to the table.
Resist Your Craving to Validate Your Ego
A person with low emotional intelligence is equivalent to a tone-deaf choir member who defiantly claims they are singing on key when the director tells them they are not. Control freaks, megalomaniacs and narcissists all fall into this category because they ignore the critique of others and don’t see value in self-improvement. Listen, we all are guilty of some level of selfishness. Nobody is perfect. But for egomaniacs, introspection is not in their repertoire and so they view feedback as an attack on their character instead of as collaboration on an idea. If this is you, let go of your fragile ego and grow. You are mutilating your imagination, not to mention you are torturing your team. In my experience, people who are not self-aware of the negative effect of their low emotional intelligence don’t get optimal results from their team. At best, their team tolerates them and, at worst, they tune them out. And if you are new to a team, it is doubly important to solicit feedback. But regardless of the hat you wear on the team, you need to check your ego and constantly seek opportunities to collaborate with others.
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