Making the most of your freelancers – three ideas

Freelancing is a hot topic right now.

One statistic in particular, from the Intuit study on the future of work (pdf), has been making the rounds – that more than 40% of US workers will be freelancing by 2020.  The number of freelancers is increasing, as is the technology that supports virtual working and communication. Online marketplaces such as Elance, Guru, and Peopleperhour are changing the face of work by enabling businesses to access creative talent on a short-term basis – saving them money and getting quick results. At the same time, these sites create opportunities for individuals to develop a freelance career and achieve a flexible working lifestyle.

Whilst this movement is helping companies to get a wide range of jobs done, they often tend to be smaller, specific tasks. By thinking on such a ‘micro’ basis, are companies missing out on the higher level of value that can be offered by freelancers? Tim Brown of IDEO offered an opinion on making the most of freelancers here and here.

Here are three more ideas:

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Grown-up digital media: less stereotypes, more collaboration

Digital media has grown up. “It’s technical, aesthetic and social all at the same time”, says Karen Cham, Director of Digital Media at Kingston University. This insight led her to develop a unique postgraduate programme that brings together students to collaborate from across three faculties – science, engineering and computing; art, design and architecture; and arts and humanities.

Around 28 students come to the ‘micro studio’ from four separate Masters courses – MA Game Development Design, MSc Game Programming, MA Computer Animation and MSc User Experience Design. The aim is for students to work collaboratively on digital projects, reflecting the needs of the industry and addressing the skills gap in professional production and team working (as identified in a 2006 Skillset report).

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Got the skills? Four key attributes for creative collaboration

Have you ever thought of collaboration as something that can be learned? Creative teams often pay more attention to generating great ideas than the skills they need to develop to work more effectively together.

Creative Skillset, the UK’s industry body for skills and training in the creative industries, recently published “Fusion Skills: perspectives and good practice” a report reviewing how the sector needs people with “a fusion of creativity, business knowledge and technological understanding”. Recognising that this has an impact at firm and industry level, as well as individual, the report described how complex problems (those with uncertain outcomes) require thinking across diverse disciplines to solve them. They pointed to examples such as Highwire, and Hyper Island – education programmes that train people for this kind of thinking, instilling soft skills such as communication, presentation, leadership and teamworking for innovation and problem solving.

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How to run a productive team workshop

Throughout May and June, I’ve been focussing on “Doing, not talking” –  practical tools that can be introduced to teams, to actively help them work better together. For the last post in this series, I’ll address the team workshop.

Workshops are a great time to experiment and explore. But whilst they can be fun and energising, it can be difficult for teams to stay focussed, and also to keep the momentum going after the session.

Here’s an overview of how I plan project team workshops for productive results.

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A checklist for creative management: from theory to practice

For years, academics and practitioners alike have been exploring the best way to ‘manage creativity’.  The two words in themselves seem like opposites– by its very nature creativity is chaotic, whereas management strives for order and efficiency (I first wrote about this in two posts a few months ago – The Messiness of Creativity and Working with Creative Chaos).  Finding a balance between the two can be tricky.

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From idea to execution: tips for keeping teams and projects moving

 Our energy and commitment – and thus a willingness to tolerate the sometimes painful process of execution – are naturally high only when an idea is first conceived… Our ideas become less interesting as we realize the implied responsibilities and sheer amount of work required to execute them

Scott Belsky in Making Ideas Happen

Something a creative team struggles with the most is execution. Developing ideas at the beginning of a project is an energising and exciting stage. But when it comes to knuckling down and seeing those ideas through, it takes much more determination and self-discipline.

Generating ideas requires a different type of thinking from actually delivering them, and shifting between the two isn’t easy.  The Ideation Switch, a post by Lukas Fittl on tech startups, explains perfectly how idea generation and execution need to be separated, when often they are attempted at the same time. And in The Creative Benefits of Split Personalities, Heidi Grant Halvorson describes how, to be successful in their work, a creative person needs to employ two different thinking approaches – idea generation and idea evaluation.

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Un-clarity, un-risk and un-management: words from Ije Nwokorie, MD at Wolff Olins, on leading a creative business


Facilitation is a word that Ije Nwokorie, Managing Director at Wolff Olins (international brand consultancy), uses with pride.  He sees it as one of today’s most important management skills. So he made it his mission to make it something that Wolff Olins would become famous for, and he’s well on the way to achieving this. Ije recently led the internal development at the agency towards a structure that allows for “inevitable collaboration” and self-managing teams. It’s an unconventional approach that has turned a lot of traditional theory on its head. He has put an ‘un-‘ in front of the words management, leadership and risk to create a more chaotic/less regimented, but rewarding and inventive environment.

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Getting stuff done: workflow for creative teams

For the fourth post in the “Doing, not talking” series, I’m looking the “doing” during a project – developing a workflow so that a creative team can concentrate on what they do best.

An online search for the word “workflow” is not particularly inspiring – returning a lot of technical-looking and process-heavy results. But considering workflow for a new creative team is useful for effective collaboration, it just needs a lighter and more flexible approach.

I look at workflow as a way to help a team progress as productively as possible through a project (not necessarily as ‘smoothly as possible’ as it’s those bumps and roadblocks and messiness that often leads to great ideas). The aim is not to squeeze creativity out, but to make more space for it, by ensuring that team members are kept up-to-date, can find the information they need easily and are well-supported.

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What’s your problem? – a briefing template

For this month’s theme of “Doing, not talking”, I’m providing practical methods and tools for supporting collaboration.

In an earlier post, I gave some insight into my process for building a top creative team. But before you start your search for talent, one of the most important things you can do is to produce an effective brief.  This will help you to identify the actual skills and expertise you need to look for.

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Start with the individual: the personal audit

This month, I’m looking at “Doing, not talking” and providing some practical tools that can be used to help teams work better together.

PersonalAuditSince collaboration starts with the individual, for this first post I’m trying out the personal audit – a tool to be used by team members to review their own position before the collaboration starts.  The intention is for it to be useful for team members that are approaching a project from separate businesses (or different departments within an organisation) to help the team find common ground.

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