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Creative Ways to Boost Collaboration

October 25, 2015

By Alaina Cyr (@AlainaBCyr)

Alaina Cyr

Alaina Cyr

In early 2013, four colleagues and I were pushing for a blog for our program. Once we succeeded in pleading our case, we each planned to each publish a piece every 2 weeks. Soon after launching, it became apparent that this approach wouldn’t work. Some bloggers had trouble with writing, finding topics, or finishing the pieces while others had an abundance of ideas but lacked the time to actually write and edit them. We were all enthusiastic, but we weren’t prepared for the time commitment. Pumping out a new piece, revising, and incorporating feedback every two weeks for a new blogger – on top of day-to-day responsibilities – was next to impossible.

The Problem: While our blog may have hit the ground running, we ran out of speed in the first lap. We didn’t prepare ourselves for the marathon of producing a blog.

At the time I had been reading Chris Hadfield’s “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” and was feeling inspired by his humble approach to teamwork. I asked myself: What could we do to help us make a better blog? If some bloggers were struggling with topics or flow, maybe we needed to help each other talk through our ideas. If others were struggling with time, maybe we needed to dedicate time to the blog on a regular basis. And if blogging was meant to be fun, maybe we needed to make it feel that way.

A Solution: Aha! What if we formed a Blog Club, in same vein as other writing clubs? We’d have a supportive group to bounce ideas off of. We’d have dedicated time to work on the blogs each week. We could keep it from feeling like “just another meeting” by keeping it casual and informal.

people on multi-seated bicycle

Tactics: Each week we met for about an hour in the most comfortable and casual setting we could make. Those with drafts or topic ideas would have time to talk them through. Everyone was encouraged to come, listen to others’ stories and contribute their perspective as they felt comfortable, even if they didn’t have a work-in-progress to share.

Results: Our Blog Club included a diverse group of people from a variety of professional backgrounds. Instead of the variety of opinions bogging us down, the different perspectives let us each see our writing from a different perspective. And hearing others’ perspectives inevitably inspired each of us to write about topics we likely wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

Blog Club undoubtedly reduced editing time, too. Countless times a blogger would preface their post with a sheepish “I’m not sure where to take this” and another blogger would chime in with a small tweak that would complete the post. Guest bloggers, too, benefited from a visit or two to Blog Club. When a blogger shared a piece with the team, we would refine it and hash out the problems together. It made us all better writers.

Blog Club quickly became a highlight of my week. Not only did I love hearing my colleague’s stories, it made me feel like a part of a team rather than a simple contributor.

What made it work:

  • Everyone respected each other. It takes a lot of guts to read aloud unfinished work and half-baked or controversial ideas. Blog Club was a safe place to share and feedback was always constructive.
  • It was optional. Blog Club was meant to motivate us to write. Making it a mandatory meeting would have made it much less enjoyable.
  • We met every week, same time, same place. Having someone round up the troops every week doesn’t hurt either.

Questions:

We’ve all experienced challenges when delivering on a team project. On the October 28 at 9pm ET (time zone converter), let’s chat about creative ways to collaborate better.

  • T1: What do you think are the keys to successful collaboration?
  • T2a: What inventive solutions do you/have you seen used to boost collaboration on projects?
  • T2b: Why do you think they work?
  • T3: What is something that you struggle with? Let’s crowdsource potential solutions!

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/cBfaYS

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