New Research Offers Clues for Creative Collaboration

creative collaboration

Do you have a hard time working with creative types? If so, you’re not alone, according to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review by organizational behavior experts at UC Davis, Stanford Graduate School of Business and Deloitte.

The article, “Collaborating with Creative Peers,” explores the dynamics between creative professionals and their partners in business leadership, using the example of a toy development project that was shelved due to lack of communication between a marketer and a designer. Co-authors Kimberly D. Elsbach, a UC Davis associate dean and professor of organizational behavior; Brooke Brown-Saracino, an organizational transformation consultant with Deloitte; and Francis J. Flynn, an organizational behavior professor at Stanford, offer suggests for how this type of breakdown can be avoided through creative collaboration.

“In research on populations of toy designers, R&D scientists, and Hollywood screenwriters, we’ve found the mix of problem solvers and artists to be roughly the same,” the team writes.

They came up with four tactics based on the research that seemed to help ease collaboration with creatives: offering broad suggestions; tempering enthusiasm about your own ideas to keep artistic collaborators from feeling like you’re taking over the process; exercising patience in decision making, and showing respect and like-mindedness.

“To be clear, we’re not talking about artistes in the design department or accusing anyone of being thin-skinned; those are stereotypes that we’d actually like to erase,” reads the article. “The people who think of themselves as artists work in a range of functions, and their passion for their work is often critical to the innovation and long-term success of their firms.”

The research identified several common characteristics shared by creative professionals, including exhibiting a signature style, desiring to exert control over how ideas are executed and being driven by noncommercial motivations.

Elsbach has also recently published research showing how Hollywood movie and television producers judge the creativity of people pitching story ideas.


About the Author

Maggie Boccella

Maggie Boccella, a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, is a freelance writer, artist and photographer. She has consulted on various film and multimedia projects, and she also serves as a juror for the city's annual LGBTQIA Film Festival.

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