Creative Chemistry: The Science of Content Collaboration

Back in high school chemistry class, we learned about the ways in which various properties and compounds change when they interact. Combine one element with another, and watch the magic happen.

Content collaboration is based on the same principle: when you bring together multiple disparate functions, they can produce something far beyond any one individual’s capability. Building a versatile content team is the first step toward creating powerful content marketing reactions, but figuring out how to optimally situate and manage those team members — while avoiding volatility — is the essential crux.

Swapping out the beakers for blogs, let’s explore the science of content collaboration. Safety goggles on!

Why Collaboration is a Science

Benjamin Jones, a strategy professor at Northwestern University’s prestigious Kellogg School of Management, conducted research a few years back on the growing importance of collaboration, and the science behind it. I recommend clicking that link and perusing the insights, because there’s a lot of eye-opening stuff in there.

The study wasn’t about content marketing, or even business collaboration specifically, but this fundamental assertion struck a chord with me:

“Increasing specialization of skills means that you need bigger and bigger groups, with more and more specialists, in order to be successful.”

This is certainly a phenomenon we see in the content world, where teams are increasingly becoming larger and more specialized. The days of a single jack-of-all-trades digital marketer handling five different roles are fading, as units are tasked with producing higher volumes of content with superior performance.

One comparison drawn up in the Kellogg article is building an airplane; in 1903 it took two brothers to design and fly the first model, whereas today it takes dozens of engineers to build an engine alone. Content marketing operations have similarly grown much more complex, so if you want your strategy to take flight, you’ll need airtight collaboration.

Here are some tips for making it happen.

A Smarter Approach to Content Collaboration

Drawing from the insights in Jones’ research, as well as some other recent analysis on the subject, here are a few new-age methods you can adopt to ensure your team’s whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Find a Balance of Convention and Novelty

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. One study cited by Jones looked at academic research teams, seeking to identify common traits among the highest-impact papers. They found that top performers worked under familiar frameworks while adding their own unique twists, or “spice.”

“If the whole thing is spicy, it does badly,” Jones said. “If it’s hyper-conventional with no spice, it does badly. So you’ve got to be really grounded, but then you’ve got to mix in something unexpected.”

Sound about right, content creators? DivvyHQ is built for exactly this kind of approach, offering the ability to use templates for workflows and content items, then modify them. Since science is all about experimentation, I recommend testing out various setups to find out what works best for you. Give different team members ownership over different aspects of your content production process, enabling their expertise and creativity to infuse the “spice” that sets your program apart.

Make Time for Collaboration

We recently outlined prominent content collaboration trends, and one thing we noticed was a common (and all too relatable) barrier: teams are too busy. It’s the same culprit that causes us to miss deadlines, make careless mistakes, and generally stress out.

There’s no easy answer to this. When you’ve got a team full of specialized functions, they’re all bound to be pulled in many different directions. But this is problematic because collaboration – even when streamlined – does take time and commitment. People need to communicate, and help each other out.

Part of this is simply about culture. Set an expectation from the top down that teamwork is not only encouraged but expected.

Another part is operational. Implement content automation solutions wherever it makes sense to do so. And lean on technology to help optimize your human creative capital. A platform like DivvyHQ can handle many of your internal communications, check-ins, and status updates, enabling you to maintain collaboration while reducing the number of requisite meetings and emails, which – according to marketers surveyed by WorkFront – take up a whopping 62% of our work time.

Bring Everyone Together

“What can organizations do to encourage the next breakthrough product or idea? How can they ensure that little bit of spice, that teaming up of specialists in new ways?” asks the Kellogg article. “One solution is to, quite literally, make space for people to meet potential collaborators they may not otherwise run into.”

To exemplify this, Jones points to Pixar Studios, which designed its California headquarters with all bathrooms in the center of the building. “They were very intentional,” he said, “about wanting people who are artists and animators, and the coders, and the music people, and the screen writers to be constantly bumping into each other in random ways to spark ideas.”

Running your campaigns and initiatives through DivvyHQ provides this same dynamic, in a digital setting. It’s a central hub with visibility for everyone, so specialists across a variety of functions can see what’s happening in real-time. You never know when your social media guru will notice a planned blog series and have a great idea for promoting it, or when an SEO will see an opportunity to optimize a headline. These little things go a long way.

DivvyHQ is particularly effective at supporting this kind of active collaboration when your team is distributed geographically, or you rely on numerous remote contributors. Placing bathrooms in the same location won’t do much in those cases.

Maximize Your Team’s Creative Power

Collaboration in business is too often viewed as an intangible ideal, fueled by cheesy platitudes like “Teamwork makes the dream work!” But our point here today is that there’s very much a science to content collaboration, and those teams that treat is as such will find more success.

We invest a lot in our talent. It’s vital to ensure we’re maximizing the potential of our people. Implementing practical measures to facilitate seamless collaboration – like fostering creativity within constraints, carving out dedicated time, and centralizing your processes – will help you do just that.

In the famous words of Oscar Wilde: “Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.”

Want to find out a powerful collaboration engine can guide your team toward better results? Try out DivvyHQ free for two weeks.