I think it’s great.

As the founder of a digital agency that works with clients and collaborators across the globe, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the notion of collaboration recently. Sure, our team is constantly working together to achieve better results, and we’ve had a fair bit of experience subcontracting talented individuals and companies…but what other forms of collaboration have we yet to explore?

The lesson: a missed opportunity

This train of thought and reflection started about six months ago. To our pleasant surprise, we received an email from a very high profile iOS game development company inviting us to submit an initial proposal. I found out we were one of very few companies they’d reached out to and in a fit of confidence, figured we had a fair shot at landing the project.

Perhaps that’s not quite honest. To be frank, I convinced myself that we had a shot, I wanted to believe it. Realistically, we didn’t.

“By infusing the idea of collaboration into the DNA of Plank, we have already become different and stronger company. I’m confident that it will change us and our culture in many interesting and original ways.” — Warren Wilansky

We quickly prepared our proposal and got a response: they felt like our game plan had come across as incomplete. And you know what? They were right. We had focused far too much on our past experience in the gaming industry, which proved the quality of our work but offered limited examples. What they needed from us was a clear focus on how we would help them market their iOS game and make it even more successful than it already was. The lesson? We should have partnered with another company that specialized in marketing and settled for our 50% of the project. Instead, we stubbornly tried to make it look like we could handle it all ourselves and ended up losing the whole thing.

Ok, so you live and you learn – but how would we make sure we never made that mistake again? As it turns out, we’d soon have the opportunity to redeem ourselves.

The success story: collaboration done right

In the fall of 2014, I was excited to be in touch with the management team of legendary Canadian band Rush. As I sat in our very first meeting in Toronto, talking about the project and telling them all about Plank, a single thought kept popping up; I know someone who would kill to be sitting here. In fact, I thought, he should be sitting here! Quickly, I told the Rush team all about this great studio in Philadelphia that happened to be run by the biggest Rush fan I’d ever met. It became clear to me that inviting Greg Hoy and Happy Cog into the fold of this project would be the best way to deliver something incredible and robust.

Could we have won this project by ourselves? Probably. But having a true Rush fanatic involved just about made it a done deal. Could we have delivered the results on our own? Yes. But it never would have carried the same passion and attention to detail that Happy Cog brought to the table. But most important to me on a personal level? We were exposed to the way other talented people and industry experts do their work. I got to see a different management style and a different approach to project implementation that I think has made me a wiser leader and Plank a better place to work and create. And we got results. Following our collaboration, Rush.com was shortlisted as the best Website Redesign of 2015.

So collaboration works, now what?

The Rush.com experience sealed the deal. As Plank continues to grow and evolve, it’s increasingly clear to me that the best way for us to keep pulling off these ambitious projects while keeping our culture and independence is to find new and creative ways to pull varied teams together and offer loose structures that benefit our clients, their projects and our collaborators alike. With mutual respect, clear roles and open lines of communication, project success is nearly guaranteed. Plus, it feels great to know that another talented team of creative problem-solvers has your back.

By making collaboration a key component of Plank’s DNA, we’ve already become a stronger and more confident company and team. How about you? Have you missed important opportunities to collaborate? Or leveraged another team’s expertise to come up with something amazing? Let us know!

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