Don’t always go for the familiar

This is hard, writing about the unknown joys and perils of collaborating with others when I’d rather talk about the steady times I continue to have with familiar collaborators. The truth is we never know what the outcome of a collaboration is going to be. Some of us have the luxury of developing collaborative partnerships that last many years but there are also collaborators who want to try out new partnerships. The wrong thing to do is take offence. Instead, understand that we are sometimes driven to work with people we’ve never worked with before because the risk of what may come of it is worth taking instead of relying on the outcomes of the same old. Celebrate new partnerships because you never know what gold may come from it, either in new and unexpectedly great results, or simply in extending your existing network and expanding the number of opportunities for work that will come up. What other advantages are there of working with new collaborators?


You never know who you’re going to have to work with and that’s ok!

A common theme I hear from learners is how they don’t want to work with so and so ever again, or because of rumours, they don’t want to work with them at all, ever. In the real-world we seldom get that choice or make it unless you start out with your own vision and build a team of ‘friends’,  but all this is easily tempered by our need for work vs. how picky we are at who we work with. Regardless, you might be in for a surprise, because you never really know how it’s going to go with a particular person until you’re collaborating, no matter what the rumours. I’ve seen some of the best work come from individuals who prior to engaging did not want to work together. Surprise surprise. They either clicked right away, learned how to mitigate each other and/or the rest of the team also kept them civil. Even when you choose to work with those people you know and those who you know you work well with, it’s always a good idea to give all potential collaborators the benefit of the doubt. It’s good practice when you’re in a learning environment to be able to work with what you consider are difficult personalities because it prepares you for what it’s really like in that place we call the real-world. What war stories do you have from working with others and what did you learn?

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The peculiar and unknown variable called the client expectation

When you provide a service to a client you never really know what kind of client your going to get. So what to do with that wild card? There are many ways to mitigate the client if perceived as a threat. The hardest thing to do and the one skill that we all think we’re good at, is being crystal clear on what a client’s problem is, ensuring that there are few uncommunicated expectations and that they are not promised the world and given one continent. Another skill you can develop when dealing with a client is to prepare all possible reactions that they may give towards what it is your pitching, creating or designing, before, during or after your first meeting. You can prepare for this in a few ways:

  • work with your team on role-playing the client as the rest of the team presents the idea
  • draw a persona map of your client as below

Ultimately, when you think of a client as collaborator and engage them in that way, the work will be better for it, you will be challenged to grow and improve and you’ll also make a better client for someone else one day.

the stereoclient

Other people make your ideas better

So many stories exist of individuals holding back on proposing their own ideas to others for fear of them being stolen. Let’s examine that for a moment. Some would argue that all ideas are stolen, that we build our ideas on the seeds that others plant.  Why not try and pitch your unbelievably fantastic money-making idea to a group of people and see what happens? While your idea may be appropriated and trolled, there are likely more realistic outcomes:

  • your idea or something close to it has been done before and someone you decide to work with may already have come across it or done research in this area.
  • if the idea is good and people are genuinely interested in it then their efforts to work with it and you on it are only going to make it better because the combined knowledge of many is more than one single person.