Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

If you played the ‘Buzzword Bingo’ game at any agency’s credentials meeting, a few words would no doubt crop up regularly.

Integration, no doubt.

Effectiveness, and creativity, you’d hope.

And of course collaboration.  The C-word. 

What agency in town wouldn’t claim to be collaborative these days? 

And what client wouldn’t seek this from their agency?

But what is really meant by collaboration?  And how often is it used as a euphemism for something else?  Like so many buzz words, has it become devalued by its ubiquity?  That was the subject of an intriguing seminar ran by Dawn Sillett  on behalf of the AAR recently.

She offered a helpful framework where types of interaction are plotted on axes of co-perativeness and assertiveness known as the TKI framework.  Without giving too much away, the basic conclusion is there are many types of behavioural modes, all of which have their place.  But it would be a mistake to think they are all forms of collaboration.

True collaboration is tough. 

It requires all parties not only to be co-operative with eachother, but to be prepared for a high degree of challenge.  It requires time, mental effort, trust in each other, and a respect for each other’s opinions and expertise.

So why bother?

At St Luke’s, collaboration has a special place in our DNA.  It was a founding principle of the agency.  We were one of the first agencies to pioneer the use of creative tissue sessions.  A practice that is now fairly ubiquitous, but all too often abused by both sides.  Agencies can use ‘cannon fodder’ ideas as a way to get the idea they want to flog look more buyable.  Clients can simply want a beauty parade of highly polished ideas to select from. In its original form, it was a form of collaboration designed to open up the creative process at an incipient stage; informing, nurturing and enriching the delicate, raw ’tissue’ of an idea.

But back to collaboration.  With all our clients we will genuinely collaborate with them in the process of identifying their brand’s agenda.  A truly powerful Agenda Setting Idea demands the time, effort, trust, challenge and respect of real collaboration.  (And we believe, it should be fun and exhilarating too.)

That’s because at their most powerful, they are founded on some fundamental beliefs:

–       that agendas require ownership from all stakeholders to really live

–       that all strategy is creative, and all creativity is strategy

–       the best outcomes are both qualitatively and quantitatively expressed

–       that clarity comes from combining forensic understanding with the creativity of innocence.

–       That combining the right language and the right iconography have immense power to set an agenda (just ask the Theresa May about the dementia tax).

So next time platitudes about collaboration come up in conversation, it’s worth asking – is that what we really mean?  Are we up for what it entails?  And do we actually need it?  The answer might not always be yes for every situation, and that’s fine;  but when it comes to setting the agenda, the answer should always be yes, yes and yes.

Ed Palmer, Managing Director

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