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Hypercollaborative: there's nowhere to hide, this is the Internet

December 2,2024

Love + Money Agency

Collaboration, open book, great business partners, a constant point of contact, this is the nomenclature of every agency’s credentials ever. In the digital age, there are no excuses for bureaucratic agency shenanigans, there’s too much work to do and way too much fun to pass up on.

While working online has been a forcing function for us to test (and sometimes adopt) every collaborative tool, it’s Hypercollaborative™ that’s allowed us to create a space in our chatroom(s) to hear clients unflinchingly say “the work is too cool”, that gets them comfortable sharing their own designs, and most importantly own the work in their own way.

Processes and platforms help, but it starts with perspective– wanting and needing to overshare, creating an often messy space for radical candour and in turn, an environment that’s structured enough to create serendipitous moments. Here’s us attempting to explain Hypercollaborative™.

The power in ideas of any flavour is that we don’t own any individual one ourselves, we own our interpretation.

So rather than perfecting, polishing, and presenting something we believe is best, we want to invite as many people as possible into our work, as early as we can. Of course this is true for users, but it starts with our collaborators.

We often start new engagements with the expectation that what we’re really going to do is repeat what a client says back to them in a more concise way (cliché). We come up with good explanations, ones that draw on a broad range of perspectives and then use our expertise to boil them right down into some type of idea that people will choose, interpret and share, Brands are Memes after all.

Typically we go out into our client’s worlds and chat to all of their besties and big crushes. We dig up all the dirt we can by asking loads of questions, seeking out the raw materials to distill an idea from. To do that effectively, every door and every window needs to be open. When doing this, we need to be non-judgemental listeners that create safe environments for a range of subject matter experts to share their thinking. While we’re taking a passive position in these conversations, we’re only able to do it effectively by setting an intention for what we want to get out of them– creating discussion guides and workshops to orient ourselves. It’s a bit of a choreography, it requires set up, rehearsal and most of all play. Sometimes I like to think of it as playing cards and always being the dealer, the games master, explaining the rules but very much in the game at level stakes.

Talk to me, what are the downsides?

For anyone working in account management, production or delivery - we all know that there is NOTHING worse than stale client comms, relationships or waiting 3 weeks before sharing anything, only to find out that someone in the exec team irrationally ‘hates orange’.I think of our team as the puppeteers of the agency, pulling the right strings at the right time. Making sure the show runs smoothly and is a masterpiece when the curtain comes up.

Working in a HyperCollaborative environment has it’s drawbacks, though.

Unfiltered client thoughts, brain dumps, constant back and forth. There’s something about traditional “debrief” documents that I miss. Maybe it’s the synthesised, articulate feedback. But would I change it, and give up the ability to bring clients on the journey with us? Sometimes... but most of the time, no. Because it’s considerably easier to weave a captivating narrative when the reader feels intimately involved in its creation.

Transparency isn’t often valued over ego, but when it is, that mentality is fruitful. If we hit a roadblock on a project - we’re far more likely to have an understanding client on the other end if we’ve fostered a Hypercollaborative relationship.

If a client is feeling out of the loop, and something goes wrong? We all know that’s a recipe for disaster. Bringing them along for the ride, highs and lows - pays off. Because when it’s time for the bad, it’s an easier pill to swallow if they are aware of the hard work and process that’s led us to that point. Every Tom, Dick and Harriet always talk about collaboration. If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard it in an agency spiel, I’d probably only have enough to pay for a week’s worth of Mont Blancs, in this economy. Either way, collaboration here doesn’t mean being forced into awkward team building activities, or sharing creative updates in WIP.

Hypercollaborative in delivery is on-the-fly feedback, clients zooming around in Figma, sharing Loom explanations on Slack. Is it glitzy and glamorous? Nope. Is it helpful? Fuck yeah it is.

Because the more we’re sharing and the way we’re sharing it, means that we’re able to streamline our process and get straight to the point. Less dollars spent on back and forth, more spent on the good stuff.

"I don't want to talk to anyone, I just want to smaishe codes" - Development Proverb

There’s sometimes a perception around the development stage of a project that frames it as simply the execution of the creative thinking that’s been done so far. That is to say, the designers do their magic - iterating based on client and user feedback - and then it gets fed into the dev oven to bake. It’s at this moment that the rhythm changes. Development is an entirely different kettle of fish and one that clients are sometimes reluctant to swim in. This is where Hypercollaborative™ is especially important. Not only do we have to be expert swimmers, we need to let everyone know that the waters great, dipping a toe or two in is a great idea!

It boils down to this: building amazing digital experiences makes us excited, and we want our clients to share in that excitement throughout the build, not just in one big splash at the end. This means sharing progress in realtime (or something close to) to keep them engaged, hold ourselves accountable, and ensure we’re delivering an end product that meets their needs and expectations.

It also means removing barriers to communication. It doesn’t make sense to channel all communication between client and developer through a project manager. Want to chat with us directly? Just ping us in our collab slack channel. Whether it’s a technical question or to shower us with flattery following a particularly impressive sprint, we’re only ever a message away.

Our work doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and we want to keep channels open for dialog to flow in both directions. Through status updates, staging links, video walkthroughs, and access to our development Kanban, we want everyone to be able to celebrate the small wins as well as the big milestones together.

This is truer even after launch: maybe a strange bug appears; maybe analytics are showing unexpected user trends; maybe the CMS needs an uplift. Whatever the reason, the friendly neighbourhood devs are our first responders, detectives and medics when it comes to technical (and sometimes emotional) support.

"Don't buy a dog if you're going to bark yourself."

It's fairly typical for everyone (designer or not) to become one when anything resembling a graphic design turns up in the world. What we've found is that when a non-designer is commenting about colour or type, it's usually something else. A vibe, a line, a gut feeling. Which is entirely valid, but requires diagnosis.

That's why the design phase requires a fairly intimate relationship with our clients. In the early stages of the engagement when the brand is being defined; Slack messages, web links, references, working file links, Figma comments, etc. are constantly being sent, in real-time, when the idea hits; CDs to clients, clients to designers, interns to AMs. Open-source problem solving is the goal and titles + ego are checked at the door. As this article is attempting to explain, we aren’t big on the whole curtain-reveal-thing. Our CRD presentations shouldn’t be a surprise, they should be a collection of the best bits from creative sprints. We’ve found our best work this way. So, rinse and repeat.

Website design is kinda similar, kinda not. Initially, we do some workshops to figure out things like must-haves and nice-to-haves, golden paths, conversion metrics, account logins, hosting info, etc. Suffice it to say a lot of collaborative work is done upfront to define what the thing is we are building. Then, once all the cards have been laid out we go to work making said thing. Our working Figma files are shared with clients on day 1 and linked in our collab channels, any human (LAM or client) at any time can jump in and provide some thoughts. This phase requires less constant, live commitment from clients and tends to work better in more formal tranches.

Not only that, but if you have the Standards™ down and adopt Hypercollaborative™ as a personality trait, you can be lucky enough to have a distributed team of specialists, building a legitimate claim to work with the world’s best.

Useful Tools for Hypercollaborative™ work you ask? We thought you’d never ask:

Figma, we use if for just about everything and maybe so do you? It’s where we design most of what you see. It’s also where we prototype, present, and give feedback. Think of it as a Keynote, a PDF, a website prototype, and Adobe Suite all in one.

  • Slack, if you’re not using it, you’re probably using Microsoft Teams.
  • Supernormal, AI note taking, action and agenda items– game changer.
  • Google Meet, we’ve been through Whereby, Zoom, Slack calls, huddles, meet still comes out on top
  • Loom, seriously good for briefing a team asynchronously and declogging calendars

Attempts to Explain

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