Create, Collaborate and Critique: Stages of Development

For the last ten years I’ve been saying: everyone can critique, but few can create.

This was a useful mantra for helping my product development teams get through the mire and pain of “executive feedback” which usually includes tons of opinions but teaspoonfuls of useful input.  Now I’m  in a position of developing content vs products, but my mantra remained the same.

However, I recently realized that I was skipping a step: collaboration.    I think my “skip” was actually a Freudian slip – I knew it existed, and I practiced it, but I sublimated this step into my sub-conscience because it is a grey area that exists between the seed of creation and the pruning of critique and because it is so difficult to define. Here are the stages of development that I am now using:

Creation is a singular activity.  Collaboration is a small group activity. Critique is for the masses.

  • When I say “creation is singular” I don’t mean only individuals can create (although there is a body of thought that supports this position), rather I mean “singular vision”.  Creation is both fragile and dynamic.  Singular vision during the creative stage allows the idea to coalesce, whereas too much friction can lead to an implosion.  Creation occurs best alone or with like-minded people.
  • Collaboration requires high levels of trust and selective diversity.  Some of my best experiences with collaboration have occurred with people who came to a similar conclusion from a different angle.  Our vision was the same, but HOW we reached it was very different, and it is in those differences that we found the opportunities for refinement.  Too much diversity during the early stages is usually more dilutive vs additive (and yes, I made up the word dilutive, but I really like it – so it stays.)
  • Critiquing is the pruning shear, large grit sandpaper, chisel and  hammer.  It shapes the idea into something more useful and fruitful than an idea left in the hothouse of like-mindedness, but if introduced too early in the process it can kill the idea.

My litmus test for “truth” is: does this principle apply to multiple areas?  if so, then it is a principle vs a preference.  Fortunately for me, I see the principles of creation, collaboration and critiquing in both nature (plant a seed – water and fertilize during development – prune when it hits a level of maturity) and family (2 people make the child, a family raises the child, the world shapes the child.  Exposing a child too early to the public forum of criticism may not kill the child – but often times seriously messes them up.)

In transmedia marketing, a key step is the inclusion of your audience into the creative process.  When should they be added? I think fans are added during collaboration, but the masses during critique.  The challenge here is; where are your fans (e.g. like minded people) and what is an efficient method of collaborating?  Things to be considered in a future post.

What do you think?  Am I stretching a preference into a principle or is this really a good way to view the development process?  Critiques are now welcome 🙂


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