Befriend your collaborators or collaborate with your friends

Have you ever had a collaborative project go wrong, because collaboration didn’t really happen?

That was my week. Despite everyone spending huge amounts of energy, we all pulled in different directions. So by the end of the project, we were all exhausted. In evaluation, we had very different points of view. Some of us felt the project had been a success, while others were convinced it had been a failure.

I managed this project, so I have to say I am totally responsible for its outcome. I made some major mistakes this week, the biggest of which was not spending enough time making friends with my collaborators.

Our most successful projects have been the ones with the most time spent in planning.

Now, more time planning doesn’t guarantee good results, but if you are hanging out together, if you are really listening to each other, learning about each other and developing a plan that suits everybody, you are setting the project up to succeed. And even if it fails, you will all agree that failure was okay.

Successful projects can also be gotten together quickly with friends. That’s why ensemble companies like Kneehigh thrive: they all know each other! They work together all the time, so have had time to form friendships. Some of the best creative work of my career was done when I was a member of the Belgrade Youth Theatre. Everybody knew how everybody else operated. They cared about each other, so could stay positive longer and forgive each other.

I failed to do that on this project, and boy was it hard work.

So next time, what will I do differently? Well, I will hang out a bit more with my collaborators. Maybe go to the pub after hours. Talk about fun stuff as well as planning. Make sure we spend more time than is necessary on collecting creative input. Agree a set of aims that everybody is signed up to.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just collaborate with my friends.

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