Best and Worst Collaborations

… or, a better title might be: “too much structure kills creativity”.

When I think about the best, and worst, collaborations I’ve been involved in with TeamCamp, the collaborations where we’ve ideated, prototyped and produced something, were by far the best. The richest collaboration was definitely on a web service we developed called Twegather. The idea was born from a problem that we personally experienced, and it allowed our diverse group apply our skills. We rapidly prototyped a service, from a quick and dirty MVP, to a full fledged service. We pivoted through three UI designs, and constantly innovated to make the service easier to use. Ultimately, we closed the service down because we really couldn’t see a way to monetize the service and we all got busy with other things. But it was an incredibly fun and rich learning experience and I never regretted a minute of it.

On the other side of the coin was the 3 months we spent trying to find a niche market. In this case, we followed a set process to test ideas and determine of there was a sufficient market to turn the idea into a business. We rushed the ideation stage and hurried to get to the point where we could test the idea through Google Adwords. Despite meeting weekly, we never did come up with anything and while we learned a lot, it felt more like drudgery than fun.

I think what killed our enthusiasm was quite frankly the focus on making money. Searching for a niche market isn’t about doing something you love; it’s more about solving a grinding problem, something that people are will to pay for. All of the niches we stumbled across seemed mundane; it was simply hard to get excited about it.

For me, if it’s just about making money, then there’s far easier and more dependable ways to do that. I already have a great job at a great company. I love web developing because you can create neat and innovative things. Some of those things might not be practical, but the who cares if your doing it for the enjoyment? I think the other TeamCampers on the team probably felt the same way.

A main theme of the Creativity, Innovation and Change course is getting to know yourself. Personal reflection tools like CENTER add a character development dimension to the course that is an important first step towards unlocking your creative potential CENTER is an acronym, that stands for Character, Entrepreneurship, owNership, Tenacity, Excellence, and Relationship. For me, my CENTER is:

  • Character: I love learning about new ways to do things and trying them out
  • Entrepreneurship: I’m unhappy with the status quo (especially when it’s not working) and I like to change things up (even if sometimes if sometimes it doesn’t work)
  • owNership: When I choose to do something, I learn everything I can about it to do it really well, be it cycling across Canada, learning to program in Rails or R, or oil painting.
  • Tenacity: I tend to get discouraged easily, so I need to put negativity and setbacks behind me and just keep going
  • Excellence: I plan to keep learning and creating and staying healthy until the day I die
  • Relationships: My family is my wife and my kids who mean everything to me; my community is the Ottawa startup community who are always enthusiastic, supportive and creative

Before you try something new, it’s important to understand yourself and what motivates you. It’s easy to get distracted from that and occasionally follow the wrong path.

Learning from these experiences I now know that for TeamCamp to be successful we need to:

  1. Brainstorm and constantly come up with many, many more ideas;
  2. Follow-through on the ones that have a high interest level for yourself and are aligned with your CENTER;
  3. Build it! Don’t worry about whether it’s going to make money. Rather, focus on making people happy through what you create (the money will come);
  4. Lead or join a team that has similar values to yourself.

 

 

 

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