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How to lead creative collaboration and fuel performance

Stephen Bates

1. What is a culture of creative collaboration?

Imagine a workplace where ideas flow freely, diverse perspectives are valued, and creativity is encouraged. A place where failure is not stigmatized, but rather celebrated as an opportunity to learn and grow. A place where employees feel safe and empowered to take risks and challenge the status quo. This is the essence of a culture of creative collaboration—a dynamic and engaging work environment that fosters innovation, inclusion, and growth. In this culture, open communication, shared vision, and meaningful reward systems are the linchpins that enable team members to work together towards a common purpose. So, what exactly is a culture of creative collaboration, and why is it so essential in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape? Let’s find out.

A culture of creative collaboration is a dynamic work environment where ideas and diverse perspectives flow freely. It’s inclusive, engaging and free from rigid silos, structures and hierarchies.

When working in such an environment, employees feel safe and empowered to take risks. They challenge the status quo and experiment with new ideas and solutions. Failure is not seen as a stigma, but rather an opportunity to learn and grow.

At the heart of a culture of creative collaboration is open communication. Leaders encourage team members to share their thoughts, and active listening ensures that every voice is heard. This cultivates a safe, supportive environment that values and nurtures diversity of thought.

The linchpin of such a culture is a shared vision and goals. Everyone is working towards the same purpose, ensuring all efforts are aligned and focused. This unity fosters a genuine sense of community and encourages continued collaboration, creativity and growth.

The last component is an effective and meaningful system of reward. Too often, leaders believe that an employee’s pay packet is their only reward. But in a culture of creative collaboration, reward runs deeper. Contributions, as well as achievements, are valued, acknowledged and celebrated openly across all teams. This boosts morale and reinforces the importance of teamwork. Every team member feels empowered to continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

To counter a popular misconception, creative collaboration is not brainstorming. Brainstorming is a one-off intervention that works for some people, but research shows that it typically yields suboptimal ideas. A culture of creative collaboration goes way beyond one-off interventions with a systemic approach that starts with an organisation’s leaders.

2. Why is a culture of creative collaboration so important?

As a leader, you understand the importance of staying ahead in a fast-paced, competitive business environment. And research has consistently proven that a culture of creativity and collaboration is critical to success in this regard. The benefits it brings to your business are clear.

When working collaboratively, your people are able to overcome challenges faster and more effectively than if they were working in isolation. This is because a diversity of perspectives and the freedom to test and experiment lead to more robust decision-making and an enhanced ability to tackle complex problems.

For similar reasons, a culture of creative collaboration will ensure your business is better equipped to adapt and innovate in the face of disruption and changing market conditions. Armed with innovation-driving mindsets, behaviours and practices, your people are more resilient, better able to think on their feet and more likely to develop the ideas that keep your business ahead of the curve.

The final key benefit you’ll see is the positive, energising spirit creative collaboration ignites in your employees, with engagement, commitment and morale all seeing huge improvements. By working together, your employees feel valued, supported and intrinsically motivated to contribute their best. It also makes them feel more connected to their colleagues and the company. This, in turn, translates into higher productivity and better outcomes across your business, including lower turnover rates and higher profits.

It’s for these reasons that so many studies have found a link between creative collaboration and business performance. McKinsey & Company, for example, found that creative organizations outperform their competitors, have above-average revenue growth and above-average net enterprise value. Likewise, Boston Consulting Group found that organizations that affirm and reward collaboration and teamwork are twice as likely to be top performers, with above average profit and growth. On top of this, the same study found that agility (dependent on creative collaboration) meant a company was five times more likely than its peers to become a top performer.

Real-world examples of the benefits of creative collaboration can be seen in companies like Google, Apple and Amazon—organizations that are renowned for their innovative and collaborative workplace cultures. These companies have been able to stay ahead of the curve, drive growth and remain industry leaders by realising the full potential of their employees working creatively together.

As a leader, fostering a culture of creative collaboration is critical to success in today’s business environment. This is why it’s a top priority for 84% of CEOs (McKinsey & Company). By encouraging creative teamwork, cross-team working, communication, and mutual support, you can create a workplace culture that benefits employees, drives innovation and leads to long-term growth and success.

Paul Harrison and John Wood's collaborative art piece 'Board Combined'

3. How can you cultivate such a culture in your organisation?

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business world, staying ahead of the competition is critical for success. So, as a leader, the time is now to embrace the power of creative collaboration and unlock the full potential of your team. Here are our top tips to help you ignite that power:

1. Actively listen
Leaders can kick-start creative collaboration by actively encouraging team members to share their ideas and build on each other’s suggestions. One of the most fundamental ways to do this is by actively listening to what others have to say. By showing a genuine interest in their colleagues’ ideas, leaders can create a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions.

2. Create cross-functional teams
Another way to foster creative collaboration is by creating cross-functional teams. When employees from different areas of the company work together, they can share their unique perspectives and tackle complex problems more effectively. Leaders can start by inviting people from other teams to join meetings and share their perspectives. This can help break down silos and encourage a more collaborative work environment.

3. Build a feedback culture
Open communication is another fundamental driver of creative collaboration. Leaders must create feedback mechanisms, such as regular check-ins, where team members can discuss their progress, identify roadblocks, and provide constructive feedback to each other. One way to do this is by asking for feedback yourself. By soliciting feedback from your team members, you can demonstrate that you are open to hearing their opinions and willing to make changes based on their input.

4. Promote experimentation
Leaders must also encourage experimentation to foster a culture of creative collaboration. Instead of having a hard, 100% focus on delivery, leaders should promote an environment where team members are encouraged to experiment and try new things. Failure is often a natural part of the creative process, and leaders should use these moments as opportunities to learn and improve.

5. Model the way
As mentors and guides, leaders must role-model the culture of creative collaboration themselves. By demonstrating active listening, openness to alternative perspectives, and constructive feedback, they provide an example for their team members to follow. When leaders lead by example, they can inspire their team members to do the same.

In addition, leaders must create reward and recognition systems that acknowledge employees’ contributions and successes beyond remuneration. It’s crucial to recognize and reward team members who have contributed to the success of the organization. And when failures happen, leaders must use them as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than blame. This can help create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

By implementing these five tips, leaders can create a culture of creative collaboration that fosters innovation, productivity, and employee satisfaction. This, in turn, leads to long-term success for the organization.

Kering Group: A case study in creative collaboration

At Artgym, we believe that creative collaboration is the key to empowering employees, unlocking innovation and driving business success. That’s why we were thrilled to partner with Kering, one of the world’s leading luxury fashion groups, to help them cultivate a culture of creative collaboration that would put Kering at the cutting edge of innovation in its sector. Our task was to unite their extended leader community around their strategic ambition, to build innovation and entrepreneurial capabilities and to cultivate cross-functional collaboration across this community.

Our approach was simple yet powerful. We brought together leaders from multiple brands and functions to collaborate, inspire and create the future of Kering together. Over a series of interventions, we guided teams through a process that applied the mindsets, behaviors and tools of creative collaboration to real-life, real-time business challenges and opportunities.

The program began by guiding leaders and teams on how to think outside the box, including a self-assessment that helped people understand their own innovation mindset.

Two of the most significant interventions involved ‘Inspiration Safaris’ (where participants got to visit inspirational hotspots, including local consumers and businesses, to expose them to relevant but alternative perspectives) and 3-day intensive ‘Innovation Hackathons’ where over 50 leaders came together to practice creative collaboration. On the final day of the Innovation Hackathons, participants pitched their innovations to the executive leaders of the business.

The results of these interventions have been nothing short of incredible. A whole series of innovations are now being rolled out across the Group globally. They include phone-connected shoes that gain consumers ‘green credits’, a virtual ‘try on’ tool that memorizes your biometric characteristics, and ‘metaprototyping’ to ensure products reach boutiques at optimum volume and quality levels.

Perhaps the biggest impact of this program, however, is that the habits of creative collaboration are now being built into everyday ways of working. These new collaboration skills and mindsets have become a part of Kering’s culture and are now embedded into the DNA of the organization.

The success of this partnership with Kering is just one example of how we’re helping organizations around the world to unleash their full potential through a culture of creative collaboration.


A culture of creative collaboration is an exciting and dynamic workplace that fosters innovation, engagement, and productivity.

By encouraging open communication and diversity of thought, and by providing safety, support, shared goals, and meaningful reward systems, leaders can create an environment where all team members are inspired to thrive and where ground-breaking ideas are born.

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