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The Influencers

Egoless Collaboration, and Why I’m Amazing At It

INFLUENCER: VSA Partners' Bob Winter on how an empathy-first approach to collaboration leads to better ideas and better solutions

Egoless Collaboration, and Why I’m Amazing At It

In this age of uber-collaboration everything, creative leaders are still wondering: How do you do what’s right for your agency and what’s right for your client at the same time? Will the two always be at odds?

Maybe, but it helps to check your ego at the door and do what’s right to solve the problem - even if that means making someone else the hero. Here we explore how an empathy-first approach to collaboration leads to better ideas, better solutions - and most importantly - more accolades for me, Bob Winter.


1. Be adorable.

If you can’t be adorable at least be likeable. The best creatives are people you want to be around. Be interesting. Be kind. Be weird. Pride yourself on having a diverse and varied background. Be curious about your work and the world around you.


2. Start with optimism.

Walk in with a hopeful and positive outlook. It might get beaten out of you later, but at least start with it. Believe that it’s possible to make something great - because it is. Some of the best work has come from obscure, difficult or odd briefs. Bud Light’s Real Men of Genius campaign was a radio brief that everyone was burned out on. Anything’s possible.


3. Lead with empathy.

Commit to walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s not enough to just hear what people are saying, nodding your head as they talk. I think maybe empathy is a mindset, not a method. We’re all people - clients, coworkers, vendors - we can at least try to understand what each other is up against. Whether it’s a client, co-worker or end user, know what makes them smile, what makes them cry, what makes them take action, what makes them scream, what problems they have, who needs a hug. 

4. Create with intent.

If you’re lucky, there will be lots of ideas, in lots of flavours in lots of different media. But how do you know which one is best? Just make the problem the boss. Try to make sure your decisions are based on an understanding of the client and customer, not just what you want to make. When you put the problem first - not your own bias, not other creatives’, not even the client’s demands - you end up making something that actually works.


5. Enjoy making everyone else the hero.

Have a spirit of generosity. The old “dog-eat-dog,” protective attitude is outdated. Modern creatives contribute to the greater good and find a way to contribute to others’ ideas. Make someone else the hero, or better yet, make the client a hero. Help them be the one storming around their company’s halls with confidence. Write their speech or make a presentation for them to take to their boss, and you’ll find yourself around more great work.


6. Look forward to having your mind changed.

Expect it and embrace it. Embrace a new point of view. Be okay with vulnerability and it will allow you to push and pull ideas. Even if you have something you love, it can always benefit from different perspectives. Walking in with a fixed point of view or constantly digging your heels in robs you (and the idea) of the chance to be better. Embrace adversity. Ask the hard questions. Learn to love the struggle, because great stuff is on the other side.

Bob Winter is Partner, Creative Practice Lead at VSA Partners