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Ego-free collaboration

Ego-free collaboration

by loren • May 10


Creative Director and head of Target’s Creative Vision Group Tim Murray moderated a panel of three talented designers and strategists. Michael Ian Kaye from Mother, Mary Ellen Muckerman, Wolff Olins' strategy lead, and Joe Stewart from Huge discussed the challenges and rewards that arise from their collaborative partnerships with Target.

One important point that continually came up is the need to align everyone involved in the process in the same direction in order to make progress. This doesn't mean that everyone needs to agree, in fact some of the best ideas arise from the process of challenging and building upon others ideas. Alignment means that all partners work together in an open, collaborative and ego-free environment towards a common goal, creating a better experience for the target customer.


Big ideas can come with a big risk if a healthy collaborative environment is not valued. One example that Michael Ian Kaye from Mother discussed was the Kaleidoscopic fashion show that involved renting out all the rooms on the South face of the Standard Hotel in NYC. Mother used 156 LED lights and 66 dancers to put on a 20-minute fashion show for onlookers gathered along the Highline. Obviously this was an incredibly ambitious & risky project from a logistics standpoint but it was also an impressive show of client/agency trust and willingness to experiment.

In conclusion, Tim Murray offered 5 tips for successful collaboration:

1. Be transparent: Be open from the beginning about who is going to lead what and what the rules are.

2. Play nice: When working in collaboration with other agencies try to view different perspectives as opportunities to build on an idea.

3. Be open: Ideas can come from anywhere by anyone.  Not only do you have to be open to the ideas of others, be it from your own team, the client’s or a collaborative partner, you also have to realize that it’s OK to say “I’m wrong” – this is no place for ego.

4. Stretch the work: Include the client in the process, share ideas with other agencies. Take risks, push the client and yourself into areas that may be uncomfortable territory. As a solution it may work or it may fail, but you will be sure to learn something valuable from the process.

5. Talk, talk, talk: The speed of business today demands that businesses collaborate. Gone are the days of getting a brief and disappearing for three months to then present work. Mary Muckermann of Wolff Olins says they attempt to "move in with the client" and actually set up remote offices when possible so that they can create a more collaborative environment as opposed to the work/present/work/present cycle.