What happens when you ask a bunch of left-brain thinkers to work with a bunch of right-brain thinkers?
If you answered chaos, mayhem and a whole lot of frustration, you might be right.
But as more companies begin to merge the creative thinkers in a company with the technical side, they’re finding that if done correctly, such a working relationship doesn’t have to be frustrating or chaotic. In fact, it can lead to higher productivity, efficiency and more innovative solutions.
Recent research by The Creative Group and Robert Half Technology finds that 55% of advertising and marketing executives are collaborating more closely with technology leaders within their company compared to three years ago. In addition, 33% of chief information officers report the same of their marketing counterparts.
Despite the increasing demand for creatives to work with IT, there are ongoing challenges to such relationships, the survey finds. Chief among them: poor communication.
“You have these creatives who are right-brain thinkers who think in a very conceptual, circular way,” says Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group. “Then you have these IT people who are left-brain thinkers and have very linear, factual thinking.”
Another challenge is the logistics of getting these two groups physically close enough to work together. Domeyer says some companies are putting cross-functional teams together in the same area, forming a team around a common goal such as improving customer experience. She says these groups may use a “bridge” – someone who understands both functions and can ensure their efforts are tied to the company’s strategy.
Further, these teams may come together and disband based on projects. The key is giving them the flexibility to innovate, collaborate and work on a common goal without having to take the time to break down organizational barriers so the groups can work together as needed.
“Working cross-functionally successfully can be much more difficult in a big organization than a small company where you can move faster,” she says. “But those who figure it out will have a competitive advantage.”
Still, Domeyer says that leaders must recognize that there are some barriers to creatives and IT working together that go beyond being in different departments within a company.
“These two groups can have different perspectives. IT may say, for example, that marketing is trying to drive decisions and they don’t understand a thing about technology. On the other hand, marketing may argue that creatives feel they’re being pushed aside,” she says.
That’s why it’s important that creatives and IT take time to educate one another about their jobs, she says.
“Marketing needs to enlighten IT on the creative process, and tech needs to talk about technology limitations and what it takes to design software,” Domeyer says. “It’s going to take some individual initiative.”
Among the other suggestions to improve the creative/tech collaboration efforts:
Domeyer says her discussions with employees – especially younger ones at the entry level – shows they realize the importance of digital tools in their work. Even if they’re in the creative side of business, she says, they’re eager to learn more about technology and implement it into their work.
“They really understand how digital tools are a direct link to the customer, and they want more skills in that area,” she says. “They have much more of an understanding of the importance of technology.”