Collaboration unit is an innovative idea and structure to socialise and work with students of various courses and backgrounds. According to Dillenbourg, a collaboration between participants plays an important role in solving problems by engaging in a coordinated effort (1999). While the theory is true for various cases, collaboration also leads to various problems within the group.
I decided to work with Daily Attitude, an Instagram based blog that specialises in streetwear fashion and content. Our first brief was to rebrand and grow ‘Daily Attitudes’ through various mediums. Daily Attitudes at this moment of time had no website or digital magazine. It was a small Instagram based blog in need of guidance and creative exploration. Our team consisted of six students from various courses like MA in Fashion Photography, Fashion Media Production, Fashion Journalism, Fashion Psychology, Fashion Entrepreneurship and Fashion Business. During our first meeting, we discussed our individual skills and interest, and how we could help with the project. We also discussed the initial goals and aims for the project. At this moment, we had a vast project with no set outcome. We were confused with what our final outcome should look like, or what it should be. In the coming weeks, we were able to decode the dilemma we faced, and have a proper set of outcomes. Our final objective was to create a print/digital magazine, website design and development, editorials and written content for the website and magazine; and conduct market research for the brand. The skill and work division played an important role in the management of the team. We decided on two writers, two photographers and two business managers. I was given the task of fashion photography and art direction, which is something I am well versed in. Finally, I produced and created three fashion editorial for the print magazine, and also created the complete layout of the digital/print magazine. Our supervisor was a great help in giving us valuable insights into the fashion business industry. With her help, we were able to develop a consistent and realistic plan for the project.
Our collaboration could be described as a team collaboration, where the participants of the groups are defined by particular roles, skills and a clear mandate. Each member is then required to fulfil their respective task within an estimated deadline. Even though there is a leader in such collaboration, every participant receives equal recognition for their work. (Callahan and White, 2014).
As a photographer and art director, I have previously been part of various collaboration as I have to constantly work with a team to produce fashion photographs and content. But working in this collaboration with people from extremely different backgrounds was extremely challenging. It was difficult to understand the personal attitude and work ethics of the team members while keeping a positive attitude towards understanding and working with them. In some cases, people from the business background had no idea about art and photography; and were unable to understand the basic design ideas I had in mind. While in some cases, I was able to understand the business proposition created by the business managers, it seemed extremely far-fetched and unachievable in the three months period. Such problems were a regular occurrence during the collaborative months. It was also extremely difficult to contact the leader at various times, as he was usually busy or unavailable. I realised that he usually worked independently and didn’t inform the group with regards to the development of the brand. It would usually take the leader days to reply to various questions and requirements that led to the delay and frustration faced by the team members. Even though we were able to complete everything we proposed, we had to push everything to the last minute due to the limitations of the leader.
While working in the group, I realised it was necessary for me to communicate with the team members and improve my organisational skills. One of the group member, in particular, was extremely helpful in understanding my concerns about the project. With the help of this team member, I was able to produce a sixty-page magazine within two weeks. Even though I usually work in an independent capacity, it was necessary for me to share and get critical ideas from the members. The criticism and appreciation by the team members helped create the overall look and feel of the magazine.
The lack of a definite leader and clear aim led to increasing divides and dissatisfaction among the team members with the overall project. On a certain occasion, members of the group would argue with the leader on various issues faced by them. These arguments could only be solved through negotiation and understanding of the group dynamics. A certain incident can be described through the reflective cycle (Gibbs, 1988). The reflective cycle according to Gibbs, divides the incident into six parts, which are:
Description: During the initial period of execution of fashion editorials and written content, the leader of the group was constantly reminded to provide the group members with certain necessities required for conducting the project for Daily Attitudes. These necessities included open access to the ‘Daily Attitudes’ email account and Commission/Pull letter for the photography and styling. The leader usually forgot or ignored these request. This created various problems for the team members working on tight deadlines.
Feelings: Various team members were extremely frustrated with the aloof nature of the leader. All of us started to feel disconnected to the leader and the project in general. We started resenting the leader and the group dynamics. Since we were personally utilising our time to work for the leader’s brand, we felt completely annoyed with the leadership.
Evaluation: It became obvious that we had to take matters into our own hands. Since it was necessary to complete the project and still achieve a high quality of work. We could say the group was self-sufficient without the direction of a leader.
Analysis: I think the immense pressure on the leader and the work ethics he followed were undeniably the reason for the distress among the team members. Lack of communication between the leader and the members can also be considered a major factor in this problem.
Conclusion: We decided to start working in an independent capacity to conduct our individual projects. Finally, the team members decided to follow a flat organisational structure rather than the vertical structure we previously followed. A flat structure helps to increase satisfaction among individual as everyone works at an equal level to achieve a common goal (Strinfellow, 2010). I personally decided to create a pull/commission letter as the Art Director of ‘Daily Attitudes’ Magazine without the help of the leader.
Kaats and Opheij describe collaboration to be a tool to utilise the interest of the people to achieve a meaningful ambition. (2008). The writers and the art team worked together to create content that would showcase the brand in a vivid and interesting way. We all maintained a content management system to achieve our deadlines and uploaded our work in an organised manner. As a group, we decided that it was important to allow independent thinking and allow personal space for work. Discussion with the team every week led to the holistic development of a framework. During the later stages of the project, the team members were able to concentrate more on their work and less on the leadership and various issues faced by the team.
For me personally, the collaboration unit has been a challenging yet motivating process. It made me realise the importance of communication and patience while working with people of different background and viewpoints. It made me hone and improve my skills as an art director, negotiator and photographer. It led to a holistic improvement in my overall understanding of the industry. It made me realise the importance of having peers in a group to brainstorm ideas, which helps in creating effective and innovative work. I have personally realised that it is necessary to speak up in regards to ineffectiveness and frustration within a group. It is also necessary to take independent responsibilities with regards to work, without blaming everything on others. In the end, the three month of collaboration was an experience that taught me to be more confident and outspoken about my work. I can now utilise this knowledge and experience while working in future collaborations within the industry. I believe that during my future collaborations I would be more prepared in handling disagreements with the group members and would be able to voice my opinions more clearly.
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