Creative Collaboration For Remote Teams


Andrew Ishimaru

Low-code tools are going mainstream

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Multilingual NLP will grow

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Combining supervised and unsupervised machine learning methods

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Automating customer service: Tagging tickets and new era of chatbots

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Detecting fake news and cyber-bullying

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"Creativity is better in person". I hear this a lot from the pro-office camp. But what is creative work? And how do we ensure high quality creative deliverables in & out of the office?

One way to think about "work" is that there are two types: creative work & structured work.

Creative work might involve designing an ad campaign or building a strategy.

Structured work might be outbound calls using a script or reporting on standard metrics.

Structure is the easy one. Consistent and repeated deliverables can be pressed into SOPs and refined for efficiency and quality over time. Easy to measure. Easy to run the process. As long as your team is equipped with the tools & tech they need, remote work really is a function of inputs and outputs.

For example, one of the things we did for clients at my last biz was SEO driven blog content. Strategy/research was standardized in SEMRush, writers would create content, editor would check the work and get it ready to publish. Each writer hour was tied to client billables. And overall it was very stable and high margin work relative to other stuff we did.

But what about creative work?

I agree, it's more difficult to do remotely than structured work. Creative projects, especially involving multiple people, require a high degree of collaboration, brainstorming, problem solving, and overall coordination. Managers need to be careful to put good parameters on work so it doesn't explode out of original scope. And also provide a lot of feedback on quality, direction, etc.

So... How to do this remotely? Here's how I think about this for my teams.

1. Sync your team work schedules, work the same hours, and make yourself available. Feedback is needed to speed up the creative process and the team needs shorter lag time in messaging/calling each other.

2. Have everyone use video & audio as much as possible. Quick brainstorming sessions, feedback sessions, working sessions over Zoom give the same real time collaboration as an office does. Video recordings using something like Loom is a good middle ground when you can't get on a call. Long essays in Slack are not gonna cut it even if that's someone's preferred comms style. Too slow to write & read.

3. Stay on the pulse of your (digital!) project management tool. I used to use Asana (now I use Height) and its critical to balance tasks across the team to keep progress moving.

4. Use whiteboarding tools like mind maps / Miro / etc to recreate the meeting room jam sesh environment. Also utilize brainstorming meetings.

5. Let people do their thing but hold firm to deadlines. Sometimes creativity needs to be squeezed a bit to break through mental blocks.

6. Change up the environment to spark ideas. Try walking meetings. Get out of the house to a cafe to work one day. Etc. Etc.

I've had great creative work done in an office. But also great creative work done remote. The process is the most important thing that defines consistent creativity vs. lucky inspiration.

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