Collaborative Bake Off

Thought I’d share with you a process we use to develop creative concepts for clients. As a collaboration exercise, it’s one of my favorites because it includes individual focused work in addition to group work. I’ve found this combo (of group work and individual work) produces better creative.

Most of the projects include two directions from which the client will choose one for us to develop a campaign, product launch, etc.

Here we go…

0. Prep

Before kickoff, there should be time allocated for research, customer and stakeholder interviews, etc. Sometimes you don’t have much to go on, but try to learn as much as possible before getting started.

1. Kickoff (45 min – 1 hour):

We begin with a kickoff meeting. Attendees include our team plus the project owner and any relevant stakeholders. In addition to “starting right”, one goal is to get the client’s ideas captured. They are always going to know more than we do. We want to mine their brains for any hidden knowledge we can.

We’ll also use this time to ask questions and clear any confusion about strategy. It doesn’t matter how creative your concepts are if they’re not on strategy, they’re not going to work.

The last part of the kickoff is to do a litmus test to find out how far we can push the creative outside the client’s comfort zone. If we don’t push the limits and present something that’s a little scary, we haven’t done our jobs.

2. Debrief (30 min)

After the kickoff, our team will regroup for a few minutes to make sure we all heard the same things and are on the same page. We’ll then finalize our internal timeline and set a deadline to get all our concepts into the document by a certain time. From here, we break away to think and explore.

Over the years I’ve experimented with different time frames for the brainstorming period. I’ve found it interesting that shorter is usually better. By holding ourselves to a condensed time frame, the pressure gets ideas flowing quickly.

3. Brainstorm (3-4 days)

Let’s say we give ourselves 3-4 days to post ideas. One of us will create a Google Doc and each team member will post their ideas in that document. The format includes a concept name, description (50 words or less) and links to any supporting visuals. It’s important to have everyone write down their ideas. If you can’t articulate it clearly in a few sentences, it’s not a fully baked idea. The goal here is to get as many ideas on paper as possible for us to choose from later.

4. Bake-off (90 min)

After the brainstorming period is over, we come back together for a group work session. This phase has one goal, to decide on the two directions. We typically block out 90 min and get in a room with a whiteboard and big monitor. The first 30 mins of the workshop is used to pitch concepts. Everyone gets a turn to cast a vision for their ideas to the group.

After everyone takes a turn, we discuss, debate and remix each other’s ideas. We then agree upon and choose the two strongest concepts. The concepts have to be on strategy with the brand and goals and be broad enough to build a campaign around. A lot of times good ideas that are too narrow or channel specific get absorbed into the winning concepts.

The remaining time is spent brainstorming possibilities as a group within the chosen directions. It’s at this point most concepts start to mature and reach their potential. At the end of the work session, we create a list of deliverables and divide up tasks.

5. Build (1 week)

Now that we have the directions set, we work independently again, bringing in the others as needed to review, contribute and proof. At this point, a lot of the hard work is done, and it’s about bringing the concepts to life and showing how they live in context with the overall business objectives.

6. Present (45 min – 1 hour)

Finally, we present our concepts to the client. They’ll choose one, we’ll complete a tactical roadmap and get started on implementation.

Of course, there are times when the process changes due to timeline, budget or scope. However, this collaborative model has proven effective and provides tons of value to the client.


Also published on Medium.