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Creativity and the Collaboration Business Model

If it’s true that art imitates life and vice versa, it might be time for those of us racing around the social business arena to turn our focus towards creative companies, many who have managed to unwittingly develop solid collaboration business models born out of what we all want — to be pioneers of our own marketing space and make money doing what we do.

One of those companies is Arts + Labor, an organization that brings together talented visionaries in television and film production, motion graphics, commercials, and marketing videos. Their goal is simple and sweet: “Create a collaborative, creative community that will attract talented people, working together, to create something bigger than the sum of their parts.” That’s a mission statement we can all learn from; what follows are three pieces of advice from the creative company playbook.

1. Complement Over Compliments

‘[Collaboration] works better when you partner with other people that have skill sets that you do not have,” says Craig Parks, Partner of Arts + Labor. Despite the fact that enterprise collaboration and agile approach centers heavily around the concept of disruption and embracing failure, businesses still struggle to really roll with it. Assembling teams can turn political fast when leaders cave to caution. While it’s tempting to cushion big initiatives and projects with more experienced employees, or those who are more obviously tied to the outcomes, innovation doesn’t keep good company with redundancy.

Unleash truly fresh perspectives by identifying complementary strengths and expertise, even if that means tossing the design intern into a brainstorming session, or bringing an engineer into your marketing strategy meetings. Smart people have good ideas, period — just because they’re accomplished in one area doesn’t preclude them from contributing to a different one.

2. Entrepreneurial Spirit Dies Hard

Part of what makes someone a bona fide entrepreneur is their hunger for success. It translates into a passionate drive that pushes the boundaries of their creativity, spawning breakthrough solutions to problems nobody even knew they had. Most importantly, entrepreneurs don’t try to be unique. They just are.

When companies put down roots and the organizational structure settles, some of that fire is sacrificed for stability. And while catering to investors, streamlining processes, and widening the cost-profit gap all come with the territory of business expansion, if those kinds of initiatives kill the fervor that first charged your organization, they’re probably not worth it. Creative companies uphold the belief that collaboration is about building culture and community, and to do that successfully, they work hard to promote industrial spirit. They allow people to be innovative without parameters, and to feed off of each other’s genius. Don’t let the bottom line rip apart your company’s foundation.

3. Profit is Secondary

“We don’t always focus on the dollar,” explains Alan Berg, Art + Labor’s President and Cofounder. “We run a company, we need to be profitable, but we take projects for a variety of reasons.” Numbers mean something, but not everything, and believe it or not, relaxing profit expectations in the short term can be very lucrative down the road. Your company doesn’t have to be filled with right-brain thinkers to make it work, either.

Take, for example, the controversial decisions made a few years back by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. He made an unprecedented and somewhat risky choice to lose out on short-term profits in order to invest in new technologies that he predicted would produce richer returns for shareholders in the future. People got upset — they were scared of going broke, naturally — but Bezos turned out to be absolutely right, and his decision turned Amazon from a simple online retailer into a cutting-edge technology mammoth.

Bottom line, companies should focus on cultivating innovation and creative solutions. It’s kind of an “if you build it, they will come” situation — if your product is good, people will buy it. End of story.

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