Ellen de Vries


We’ve created this book to help you think about the work you do as a collaborator in your day to day life. It includes checklists, tools, reflections and experiments that can help you consider your own role in relation to others at work, as well as some practical activities to try out with your collaborative groups or teams.

There are four sections:

Part 1 — Get prepared
Know how to prepare the ground and create the right conditions for collaboration.
Part 2 — Nurture the group culture
Nurture the group culture in the early stages of collaboration.
Part 3 — Maintain good practice
Maintain a healthy collaborative process.
Part 4 — Reap the rewards
Reap the rewards of a collaboration.
Every time we work with a new set of people we need to rethink the way we collaborate with them and start afresh.” Tweet this

If you’re reading this book, the chances are that you have an interest in collaboration techniques for digital teams, particularly on projects where you're working with multidisciplinary teams. As you may have already experienced, digital teams are well known for evolving fast; you may be working with a wide range of stakeholders, consultants, and experts from varying disciplines who come and go throughout your projects. Holding on to a sense of close collaboration in an environment that is always changing can be challenging.

Whether you’re designing conversational interfaces, robots, self-driving cars or straight-up websites, your collaborations will always include people from disciplines that you’re not used to working with. When every digital team is as diverse and unique as a snowflake, the one common factor in every collaboration is you. What matters is how you approach the opportunity to collaborate with others.

Who are your collaborators?

As a collaborator within a group, you may want to use this book to discover your collective potential. Together, you have what it takes to create an entirely new ‘something’ that could never have been created by just one person.

Graphic showing different types of collaborators

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Part 1Get prepared

In a complex, interconnected world it is simply impossible to do anything substantial or worthwhile that does not involve collaboration across multiple disciplines. The road to digital transformation involves building bridges.”
Gerry McGovern Author of Transform, A Rebel's Guide to Digital Transformation

Find out where to start

Before you start your collaboration, you’ll want to know the nuts and bolts of why you are coming together as a group and what it is that you need to achieve. On digital projects, a discovery phase is the perfect opportunity to determine the shape your team is going to take, and figure out how you’re going to work.

A discovery phase might include:

  • Taking stock of what already exists
  • Looking at areas of potential for the project
  • Establishing a shared language for the group, including roles and tasks
  • Giving shape to a project and defining the tasks ahead of you

What if you're joining a project that has already started?

When the team are galloping ahead and getting down to business, it can feel awkward to say “I need to get the basics down before I can continue”.

If you’re asked to jump into a project and hit the ground running, you may feel there isn’t enough time to get to know people and their responsibilities. You might not even be familiar with the roles and disciplines that people in the room have. The first rule of collaborative encounters is that the conditions are never as perfect as you might have hoped.

It can be helpful to use this phrase to guide you:

No matter how you start your collaboration, this is the perfect starting point.

Collect dry facts

Whether you have the luxury of conducting a discovery phase or not, your mission is to gather as many dry facts as you can.

Here is a useful checklist of questions you can ask your team at the outset of any project, either in an email or in person. They are equally relevant whether you're arriving to work as part of a pre-existing collaboration, or starting afresh.

Getting these questions answered will give you an immediate sense of the project you are embarking on. The responses will give you a sense of how much ground work there is to do either in the discovery phase of a project, or before you can continue.

  • What are your collaborator’s names, what are their roles, how much time do they have?
  • Is there an organisational chart?
  • What are the time scales for this piece of work?
  • How much work has been done already?
  • Is there a deadline and are there milestones?
  • What is the brief and is it clear?
  • What is the budget? Who is in charge of it?
  • Who are the stakeholders and who has the power to 'sign it off'?
  • Are there any sensitive issues that need to be taken account of?
  • Are there any potential blockers to getting started?
  • Who are your allies in this process and who do you need to get on board?
  • What tools are you using to communicate and to share the work?
  • What is the environment like, do you need to arrange facilities?
  • Is anyone facilitating? Leading the process? Acting as an outside eye?
  • What are the immediate needs that your team members have?
  • Is any training required to get people up to speed?
  • Is there a brand guide, style guide or other governance materials?

If you have identified that there are any missing answers, make a note of them and allocate time to doing some further detective work.

Embarking on a project without a clear sense of the dry facts can be a dangerous game. It may be challenging to be the person who brings up the ‘stupid’ questions, but sometimes those questions are the ones that everyone else has been afraid to ask. The answers to many of the questions above may seem obvious, but the more obvious they are, the more likely they are to be overlooked, which could spell trouble further down the line.

Further Reading

Using a Project Canvas, from the Clearleft blog

Play with some raw materials

In the same way as a carpenter selects the log they will be working with, or a theatre troupe selects a set of props to inspire them as they develop their show, it can be useful to source a few initial raw materials to play with at the start of a project.

Whether you’re starting your collaboration at the beginning of the discovery phase, or you’re jumping into a pre-existing collaboration, raw materials can help you and your collaborators roll up your sleeves and get a sense of the material you’ll be working with in the project ahead. Raw materials help you keep your discussions grounded in reality.

Having something to look at together as a team, to put up on the wall and point to during discussions, can be a helpful way to pull a group of collaborators together from day one. It is important that you don’t start to analyse, correct, draw conclusions or ‘fix’ the raw materials at this stage. They should only serve as a springboard for collaboration.

Examples of raw materials include any artefacts that have been produced to support the project to date, and can include:

  • A project brief
  • A project file with previous iterations
  • A record of any recent ideas
  • Sources of inspiration: e.g. on-site visits or coffee table magazines
  • A pre-existing website
  • Any existing brand language or brand guidelines (mission statements etc.)
  • Printed marketing materials such as brochures or prospectuses
  • Notes and sketches
  • Moodboards (produced before you arrived)


Many digital agency teams conduct a research phase or stakeholder interviews to get close to the raw materials with their clients.

Case StudyAlways have something to point at.

At the Government Digital Service (GDS) in the UK there’s a catchphrase known as ‘Show the Thing’.

Even though this phrase was most commonly used to encourage people to show the thing they had made, rather than talk abstractly about the thing, the same applies here. Having a concrete example, or a set of real artefacts to point to can help you ensure that collaborative discussions don’t become too abstract.

Further Reading

Read more about Show the Thing on the GDS Website

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Part 2Nurture the group culture

If you put a lot of people together, there are a lot of dreams that are trying to come into being from that group. And you want to try to cook them up so they present themselves to the whole group so everyone thinks ‘Yes, that is what I’m dreaming’.”
Phelim McDermott Opera director at the English National Opera, Founder of Improbable Theatre

Find out what motivates you

When working on projects, the journey you go on as a group IS the collaboration. Together, you make a change” Tweet this

When you enter into new projects, the journey that you go on as a group is the collaboration. Together, you will be making a change.

At this stage, nurturing the collaboration is more important than the outcome. When teams create a dynamic that allows each member of the group to feel safely challenged and supported along the way, a satisfying result will emerge.

Discover your own motivations and your group’s motivations.

By understanding each of your collaborator’s motivations in the project, you’ll get to know them better and find out what drives them. This will help you understand who you’re working with and help you accommodate their needs throughout the process.

Every collaborative project you enter into gives each individual a new chance to:

  1. Use their skills
  2. Learn something new
  3. Create something they are proud of
  4. Make new connections

Take some time to think about what you want to get out of this process:

  • What motivates you about this collaboration?
  • What do you hope for?
  • What would you like to have achieved by the end of this collaboration?

Post these answers somewhere where you will see them. It can be easy to lose sight of your own mission when there are many voices at the table, so these will be worth revisiting on a regular basis.


When you see a greater mission emerging throughout the process, it might be time to let go of your original mission. Be prepared to try and achieve a balance between give and take.

ActivityDevelop a shared understanding of your motivations

Long term collaborations

Go for a walk with each of your team members individually. Chat to them informally about the process you’re about to embark on. Record the results of the conversation together when you get back from your walk. You may wish to put the answers on a wall so that they can be shared and compared.

Short term face-to-face collaboration

At the beginning of your session, ask each of your team members to take 3 sticky notes. Give them at least 3 minutes to think about the answers to the questions you answered earlier, about what motivates them. When they are ready, ask them to stick the notes on the wall. Take the opportunity to have a discussion about where there are similarities and differences.

Distributed team collaborations

Send the questions out using a simple survey (Google Documents may be the simplest). You may want to collectively discuss the outcomes on a video conference call.

Know yourself:

The way you work within a team is influenced by your personality. It’s important to be clear about your preferences, qualities, and attributes, as well as those of your team members. This alignment of work styles will improve communication and help the leadership and management of your project.

Assess your own strengths and weaknesses. Know what matters most to you and to the group, then look at how you’re spending your time. Track your time to see how your activities align with both sets of priorities. Although there’s no one effective tool for personality assessment, tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Five-Factor Model (FFM) and the DiSC® profile assessment can help you understand your natural preferences and how you relate to other people.

By strategically preparing for change, we can understand our internal audience, create a common vision, and use the right approach to help align stakeholders.”

Melissa BrekerContent Strategist, Coach, and Facilitator at Breker Group

Identify roles and responsibilities

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone goes around the room and introduces themselves by their name and their job title, and then left the room wondering what it is that people do?

A job title is not enough of a description. At the beginning of a collaboration you need to develop allegiances and learn who to turn to for expertise. To do that, you need to spend time getting closer to the story of what people do.


Spend a moment considering your own roles and responsibilities in relation to your project.

Name 5 things that you associate with your role in this project:

Name 5 things that you think are your responsibility in the collaboration (these may not necessarily relate to your role):

Now ask yourself:

  • Do your collaborators understand what your responsibilities entail?
  • What do you do to make sure your collaborators understand your role and responsibilities?

Broaden the definition of who your team is: think about all the different people at points in the project who are going to contribute to making the project run smoothly. That's anyone who has an interest in the success of the project.”

Jonathan KahnOrganiser of Agile Content Conf

Here are some useful tips when it comes to understanding one another’s roles and responsibilities before you begin the process:

  1. If people don’t already have one, ask them to write down their job description and share these with the group.
  2. In longer term collaborations, ask people to share their skills (which may not even seem relevant), random knowledge areas and enthusiasms.
  3. Make time in the process for knowledge sharing, so that everyone gets to understand one another’s roles and what they do in those roles.
  4. Don’t forget that any new person coming to the process needs to be thoroughly introduced to the team and the work they’re doing.
  5. Make time for your team to share stories about previous work they have done that has been relevant; sharing stories about roles and responsibilities is the fastest way to build a shared understanding of what is possible.

ActivityRun a RASCI session to establish how people are involved

Not every collaborator will have the same level of involvement in the project. Every time you meet a new collaborator on the project, ask them to choose from the following options. Make sure that all members of the team can see what level of involvement each collaborator has.

At least one person needs to take this role and be the owner.
This may be the person who offers approval or sign off.
The support here may be defined as offering resources or other assistance.
This person needs to be kept in the loop because they have useful skills or can offer information.
This person needs to be kept in the loop at agreed points in the process.

Communication plans are a great way to share what, how, and when information is shared and who is responsible for communicating information. Do a web search for 'project communication plan template' to see some samples for your projects.”

Melissa BrekerContent Strategist, Coach, and Facilitator at Breker Group

Delegate and allocate responsibilities

'Fluffy Edges' - A project task delegation exercise

In every collaboration there is a list of goals to be reached, which include jobs to be done. Jobs and tasks can be prioritised and allocated to people who seem to suit that task best.

But sometimes when you begin a project, it’s not always clear who is going to take on the tasks that are a little 'fluffier'; no-one knows who should be responsible for certain tasks.

In 'Fluffy Edges', the aim is to write out all the tasks that need to be completed to keep the project running, but when it’s not clear who might be responsible for the those tasks it can be helpful to get the entire group to have a look at them.

Examples of 'fluffy edges' include:

  • Who is going to document the process on social media?
  • Who is going to arrange the meeting room?
  • Who is going to make sure we have snacks?

ActivityWork out your fluffy edges:

  1. As a team, brainstorm your personal collection of ‘fluffy edges’, or the tasks that need to be done.
  2. Write each one out on an index card.
  3. Go through the cards systematically and decide together who should do each task.
  4. Collect up the tasks that have been allocated to you.

A version of this task was introduced to the Clearleft team by Clare Kirkland and James Box, Agile project manager and UX Lead.

The faster you can all forget your job title, the better. If you have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve for your audience, the goal is to bring all your expertise to solve that one problem. Work as one team, no matter who you report to or what building you sit in, and you'll get to that goal a lot faster.”

Sarah RichardsContent Strategist, Trainer & Consultant

Define your leadership

Can a group of individuals together ask what a project wants, rather than depending on the hierarchical domination of one person? Of course, a project needs structure and a sense of direction, but can the leader aim for discovery rather than staging a replica of what she or he has decided beforehand?”
Anne Bogart, choreographer

You may or may not have a hierarchy in your team, or you may have a range of people you are answerable to. There is often a misconception that a team is ‘run by the boss’, or even a single leader.

Instead, it can be useful to think of your team roles in a non-hierarchical fashion, but with various people ‘in charge’ of aspects of the collaboration:

The key stakeholder
The person who will ultimately sign off the project, they have the final say or the veto on decisions that need to be made.
The manager of logistics
Scheduling, meeting arrangements, and other day to day housekeeping such as being in charge of how the budget is allocated.
The outside eye
This person may stand in the shoes of the end user or the audience and help guide the work to meet their wants and needs.
The facilitator
This person is not necessarily in charge, but helps you make progress in your work by drawing out ideas by asking questions. They may also keep an eye on the agenda.
The buddy
A person who is allocated to support people in the team either in terms of their well-being, or as a person who offers a second opinion.

It is important to remember that any collaborator within your group can take the lead at any time and initiate or invite the rest of the group to follow. This is a sign of a healthy collaboration, where people take the risk of putting themselves forward and feel free to open their ideas up for debate.

As you are reading this book, you may feel like taking the lead in terms of building healthy collaborative practices in your group.

Decision-making styles:

As projects progress, so do the needs of different decision-making. Some project leaders prefer to stay highly involved at all stages of a project. Think about how people on your projects participate and their natural style of decision-making.”

Melissa BrekerContent Strategist, Coach, and Facilitator at Breker Group

Fulfil your collaborators' needs

The more time you spend thinking about creating the ideal conditions for the group work, the more it will pay off. As humans, we struggle to be a willing participant when we are being deprived of our basic needs.

If you or your collaborators are suffering from low motivation, it can be helpful to use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a troubleshooting checklist. According to Maslow, a social psychologist who studied what motivates us, we need certain conditions to be met before we are able to thrive and fulfil our potential.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid diagram


  • Do you allow for playfulness?
  • How do you make space for creativity?
  • How do you make the most of the unexpected?
  • Are people able to pursue satisfying challenges and take risks?


  • How do people know they are valued and respected?
  • How do you make the most of your successes?
  • How do you deal with failure?
  • Do people feel like it’s rewarding to be themselves?


  • Is there time for people to get to know one another?
  • Do people know who to turn to when things get tough?
  • How do you facilitate getting to know one another?
  • What values and mission hold the team together?


  • Where will people be greeted, do they have the right instructions?
  • Do people feel free to express themselves?
  • What are the health and safety procedures?
  • Where and how can people take a break and relax?

Physiological Needs

  • Have you got good food to offer people as snacks and meals?
  • Is there enough air in the room?
  • Is there adequate wifi?
  • What are the toilet facilities like?
  • How accessible are the facilities?

Case StudyWell-being for remote teams

Sometimes it’s not possible for teams to be in the same room together. On a recent project for a worldwide charity, one of our team members was based in Scotland when we were in the South of England in Brighton.

To maintain a strong sense of collaboration with remote teams, it’s important to choose the right set of tools to collaborate with. We used Slack for quick-fire questions during the day, and appear.in for video chatting.

As a team we conducted a daily video check-in at the same time each day. This 5 minute check-in allowed time for informal chitchat, and a daily update.

For longer conversations we took regular breaks, allowing people to get tea and snacks. Sometimes the office dog and cats made an appearance too!

Most effective collaboration tools: tea (or coffee), biscuits (or cake), respect and a shared goal. Nothing beats a proper chat.”

Sarah RichardsContent Strategist, Trainer & Consultant

Create a shared understanding

Let's look at techniques for finding alignment and establishing a shared understanding with your team. At this stage, you may be interested in forming a clear sense of the direction that you're collectively heading in. But in order to decide on the direction you're taking, you may also want to establish a sense of your group's culture; what you stand for and what you believe in.

Circles of understanding diagram
Original Diagram Credit: Anon

Find the differences in understanding

Take a moment to try out this exercise. If you have any other people around you ask them to try it too.

  1. Think of an elephant.
  2. Write down a short description of that elephant.
  3. Share your descriptions with another person.

We all understand the idea or the concept of an elephant. But every person will describe the elephant in their mind's eye differently. This exercise highlights how differently we understand even the most basic concepts and how specific we need to be if we want to find alignment with our collaborators.

Having a lack of clarity around a concept is a double edged sword. By listening to our collaborators’ ideas around a concept, we might discover ideas that we like and wish to take on board. Using the best parts of everyone’s ideas, a group might be able to create the ultimate picture of an elephant.

A lack of clarity around a concept might also lead to frustration and disagreement as people struggle to understand one another. When a concept seems so simple it can be difficult to acknowledge that your group may not be aligned in their understanding.

Design begins with language. The spaces and contexts we design for have their terms, their relationships, their rules. Gaining consensus means aligning on a common mental model and a shared vocabulary that stems from the language of your audience. Vocabulary is hard; it forces you to define things, which forces the team to agree on that definition. But it clarifies your intent and flushes out your points of difference to start off any project from an understanding of how your world fits together. Vocabulary is the infrastructure that underpins your content. It's the design behind the design.”

Mike AthertonContent Strategist at Facebook

Multidisciplinary collaboration

In my agency life as a Content Strategist, I often work with people from multiple disciplines at once. At any one time I may be working with a developer, a user experience designer and a visual designer, as well as a subject matter expert such as a museum curator, a doctor, or a travel specialist (...agency life is varied!).

Multidisciplinary collaboration is both challenging and rewarding because each discipline has their own unique understanding and perspective on a task. Each person sees the task through a different lens. An engineer might be inclined to look at the workings of a car, whereas a visual designer might look mostly at the outer shell. But what happens if those two truly collaborate?

Creative abrasion and creative agility are key to innovation. Maximise differences and debate.”
Linda Hill, Collective Genius

Entering into a conversation with people from another discipline can be overwhelming but also highly educational and enriching for a project. When working together it is important to encourage an atmosphere of openness, allowing one another to ask for definitions of difficult language, and helping one another understand concepts. In my work, I spend a large (and fruitful) portion of my time offering clarification on terms I might use, or decisions I might make.

Working with diversity

The more diverse a group are, the richer the potential in the collaboration. Having a diverse group can mean that your team members are of different ethnic origins, mixed genders, mixed cultural background, abilities, sexualities, or even characterful tendencies.

Multidisciplinary collaboration becomes particularly important at the intersections where cultures and peoples' life experiences need to find ways to converge. The strongest forms of innovation occur where we have to find a creative new way to understand one another’s unfamiliar languages and experiences. Often it takes an interaction with someone outside of your frame of reference to point out something that you did not know.

For teams, working with other people who have diverse needs and capabilities can be hard. I find it beneficial to start within the team and within the individual members to recognise the diversity of their own capacities and communities. Broadening the sense of self within a team is a way of making it more open to the diversity of other people who are encountered through a design project. There is a strong normative bias to an impossible ideal of user (in design). Self-recognition is a simple way of strengthening a team and enabling positive relationships with real people who can perceive and share completely new design spaces with you.”

Alistair SomervilleSensory Design Consultant, @acuity_design

Find your shared language

One way to create a shared understanding of the 'thing' you are working on is to create diagrams and maps of associated language, discussing the relationships between elements of your work with your team members. If you're in the same space, make sure you use the walls, covering them with records of your discussions.

Example domain model diagram

Domain mapping is a powerful tool for teasing out and documenting a shared understanding of the world in which the project exists – aka, its domain – and establishing how we should refer to it. Don’t know how the rail shipping industry works? A domain map visually shows that conductors drive trains to pick-up points and use a shipment manifest to plan their day, and so on. Each actor, or noun, (conductor, train, manifest, etc) is an item on the visual map and is connected to other actors by an action relationship, or “verb”, lines (drives, uses…). These terms for actors and actions become the shared project language. The team agrees to say “conductor” and avoid the alternate term “train driver”. This graphical view also replaces reams of project documentation that often gets put in a drawer after the analysis phase is over and never gets updated.”

Noz Urbina Content Strategist and Founder, Urbina Consulting

ActivityTake stock of your language.

Face-to-Face Activity

The words we choose change the things we make and how we think about them. Our words also change how other people make sense of our work.”
Abby Covert

When a group of people come together from different disciplines, each person has a sense of their own language; the words and behaviours they use to conduct the work they do. We might use the same words to describe something entirely different.

E.g. When a Visual Designer talks about brand, they may automatically be referencing the visual manifestation of the brand. When a Content Strategist refers to the brand, they may be talking about the messaging and the stories that the brand tells. I have often been in conversations where we’re referring to ‘rebranding’ and only realised after a long while that the conversation has been referring only to the visual aspects of the brand.

In the early stages of your collaboration, gather your group together and ask them to write down their intentions. You may also want to use any of your raw materials, or your mission statement for this task.

Pull out meaningful (and perhaps obvious) nouns and phrases that keep appearing. For example, you may choose words like ‘Honesty’ or ‘Innovation’. You may also want to pick up on groups of nouns, a phrase like 'digital presence' is often a great ambiguous place to start a discussion from.

Write these phrases on large sheets of paper and place them around the room. Ask the group to circulate around the room and write down definitions of what they think that word means. Their sentences could start with: “This means…..” or “Like when….”. You will be surprised to find that people have a very different understanding of many of the words.

This is a great starting point to help you build your own project vocabulary from, so that your entire team understand the definition (and what the big questions are) before you start.

Further Reading

How to Make Sense of any Mess, by Abby Covert. This book offers further insight into finding a shared language as a group.

Define your collaborative values

Teams build a business.
Culture builds a team.”
David Hieatt, Do Purpose

Every group has a culture that develops as you collectively grow and change. Thinking about your values near the start of the project can be a way to fast-track your understanding of how you want to work together.

Think about your values at the start of projects to fast-track your understanding of how you want to work together” Tweet this

The values you have as a group can help you make decisions, and are particularly useful when introducing a new team member, or giving people a sense of the way you work as your team grows and changes. When you have very little time, the idea of finding shared values and articulating your mission can seem very daunting.

Take a moment to reflect on these questions:

  • How do you make decisions together as a team?
  • How do you know what is ok, and what is not ok?

Exercise 1Discovering your values

From 30 mins to 2 hours

Face to Face Activity

There are some fundamental human values that every functional team uphold, and no-one would argue the contrary; these include, trust, respect and inclusivity. But there are many more values you might choose. This exercise will help your team discover the unique set of phrases that might form your cultural glue.

Step 1
On a small piece of paper list 5 of your friends and 5 people who inspire you (ideally people who are relevant to your project). Tell your team that they won’t have to share this part of the exercise.
Step 2
Next to that list, write down what it is you enjoy about each of those people’s ‘way of being’, preferably using two or three words e.g frivolous creativity, sensitive listening ear or challenging thinker, cosy home maker.
Step 3
Now ask each of your collaborators to write out their phrases (not the names) on a sticky note.
Step 4
Stick all the sticky notes on a wall.
Step 5
Begin reorganising the notes randomly. Start to look for shared values between each individual’s notes, but also look at interesting opposites. As you do this, hold a group discussion about what your shared values could be. E.g “Do we want to be challenging thinkers?” Make sure you answer the following three questions:
  • What is it about the way you behave together that's special?
  • If someone new came into the team, what would they need to know about you?
  • Would the opposite also be true?
Finally, try to prioritise just a few of the values.

Once you decide on your set of common values, you may decide to ‘try on’ your values for a while. In the same way as you would try on new clothes, wear them for a few days or weeks and see if they fit comfortably.


Conducting a ‘values’ exercise can often turn into “Let’s think of lots of great ways to compliment ourselves.” Be careful to be strict about the phrases that are unique to you.

To promote collaboration in content workshops, prioritise building trust over producing outputs. At first this will seem like slowing down. But if you approach it with an open mindset, people will embrace the opportunity to connect with each other. The more you focus on building trust, the easier the group will find working together. It’s counterintuitive: you need to slow down to move fast. For example, you might take the time to:

  • ask people what they’re hoping to achieve during the workshop and draft shared objectives
  • use post-it notes when coming up with ideas so that everyone contributes
  • resolve conflicts by listening to what people need (e.g. by asking, “what would that get you?”)”
Jonathan Kahn Organiser of Agile Content Conf

Define your collaborative mission

It can be useful to decide on a short statement that acts as a starting point for the group.

Some people may call this a mission statement, others may prefer to use a proposition statement or an elevator pitch (a marketing pitch that takes as long to deliver as it takes to get to the 5th floor).

Website projects may start with a hypothesis, or even a ‘provocation’ (if the intent is to shake things up a little). These starting points are all slightly different, and you may choose to go for all of them. Whichever you choose, you need a north star to guide you on your course.

Take some time to reflect on the answers to these questions:

  • What change do you hope to make with your group?
  • How do you define the thing you're working on?
  • Why does it exist?
  • Do you think each person in your group would give this answer?

Exercise 2Establishing your North Star

From 30 mins to 2 hours

Face to Face Activity


Give everyone 4 sticky notes. Ask them to write down their understanding of:

Note 1. What the project is
e.g. To co-write a story, to create a website, to invent a new project. (2 minutes)
Note 2. Who it is aimed at
e.g. for patients and carers, for people who like animals, for people who have trouble reading. (2 minutes)
Note 3. Why it is unlike similar projects
(these may be by competitors) (2 minutes)
Note 4. Finish this sentence, using snippets from the sentences above;
“By the end of this project we will have created….” (5 minutes)

When you’re done, place all notes together on the wall; all number 1 notes together, all number 2 notes etc. Compare the language that each person has used.

Making your North Star

Now draw a large star on a piece of paper. Big enough to hold at least 5 sticky notes.

As a group the star can help you find consensus and decide which concepts you all agree on.

If you agree on a concept (or a word in the phrase), stick it inside the star. Leave all other concepts on the outside.

Now work as a group to reformulate your statement based on the concepts inside the star.

Other Useful Resources

The 5 Whys activity. This activity helps you establish the root cause of a problem. By doing so, you create a purposeful starting point from which to work.


Tell your stakeholders that you believe it's possible to find an approach that satisfies everyone's requirements, even though there are differences of perspective. If you show that you believe collaboration is possible, your stakeholders will be willing to try it.”

Jonathan KahnOrganiser of Agile Content Conf

Make a game plan: Aims, goals and objectives.

To identify the place you want to reach on your journey, the entire team needs to do some vision work. In order to do that, you need a realistic sense of the time frame and the resources you have available to you.

For short term projects, or even a single workshop session, setting intentions with your team will make sure that you stay on track, and that everyone gets what they need from the time you have spent together.


You may want an output that is an 'artefact', or it may be a less tangible outcome like 'build a stronger understanding'. It is important to agree on what your broad primary goal will be. Examples of goals might be 'make a new about us page for the site' or 'strengthen the team's ability to write content independently'.

  • What goals would make your collaboration successful?
  • What goals would make your project successful?


Your objectives support your mission and help you reach your end point. They are often quantifiable and can be measured. An example of an objective might be 'increase likes by 20% in the next two months'.

  • What kind of objectives would make your collaboration successful?
  • What kind of objectives would make your project successful?


Your aims aren’t measurable. Aims can be stated as fluid intentions or strategies that you might use to help you meet your objectives.

  • What kind of aims would make your collaboration successful?
  • What kind of aims would make your project successful?


These are the physical activities that the team undertakes to support the entire mission.

  • What kind of tasks would make your collaboration successful?
  • What kind of tasks would make your project successful?

ActivityDevelop your trajectory.

Face to Face Activity

  1. Use a large roll of brown parcel paper (or the back of wrapping paper) to draw a very long arrow with a fat stem and lots of space inside it to add sticky notes.
  2. Put it up on the wall.
  3. At the end of your arrow write a goal, perhaps with a date assigned to it.
  4. Give the team different coloured sticky notes and ask them to stick their objectives, aims, goals, tasks and tactics along the trajectory of the arrow to represent the timeline.
  5. Use this timeline to develop a more formal project plan.

Other Useful Resources

The Graphic Game Plan, from Gamestorming by Dave Gray. This activity offers a similar take on how to develop your trajectory towards an end goal.

Set benchmarks:

Prepare Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure success. Uncover, discuss and validate what great performance means for you as a team.

Understand the difference between the overarching goal of impact versus project output. Delivery is not necessarily success; it's about measuring the things that matter, that have impact.”

Melissa Breker Content Strategist, Coach, and Facilitator at Breker Group

Start doing before you feel ready

Define boundaries and constraints

Constraints can spur creativity and incite action, as long as you have the confidence to embrace them”
Tom & David Kelley, Creative Confidence

Are we diverging or converging, and when?

Regardless of the project management methodology you use (e.g. Agile or Waterfall) or the goals you have been set, there are some basic boundaries and stages you can define with your team as your project progresses.

The ‘double-diamond’ is a famous phrase in the design world. It can help a team decide whether the phase they are in is opening up a question, idea or set of ideas (without looking for a solution yet, rather a set of possible solutions) or whether they are trying to narrow down the focus. Setting a time limit on your team’s divergent thinking and convergent thinking ensures you don’t get lost in the research and dreaming phases of a project.

Double Diamond diagram
Original Diagram Credit: Design Council

What are your constraints and limits as a team?

Small budgets require brave ideas”
David Hieatt

It can be extraordinarily helpful for a team to take time to decide on their own constraints, and then stick to them.

It can be incredibly helpful for a team to take time to decide on their own constraints, and then stick to them” Tweet this

Bringing schedules forward can spur teams of people into action, as can shrinking the budget, reducing the scope, shrinking a goal, or reducing the number of resources. The more dramatic the constraint, the greater the result often is. It’s a challenge though!

What constraints might you set to spur you on?

Don’t forget that conditions are never ideal. You may want to recall the phrase:

'This is the perfect starting point.'

Further Reading

Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies. Random cards offering interesting constraints for design projects.

What are your personal boundaries and constraints?

Take a moment to think about any real boundaries or constraints you may have that your team need to accommodate, or even embrace. These might include any of the following:

Physical or mental disabilities
e.g. Dyslexia or colour blindness
Physical or behavioural tendencies
e.g. Needing time alone to think
Access to tools and facilities
e.g. Not having the right equipment
e.g. Not being able to be present when the team are meeting

Can you think of 6 more, even if they are constraints you wouldn't normally acknowledge?

A personal story:

Once upon a time I worked with a theatre group. We spent 2 months working together, devising our performance for a puppet theatre, when I realised suddenly that I hadn’t had time and space to think alone. I was then given 2 weeks and a budget of less than £90 pounds to produce a puppet. I needed a short amount of time away from the group to design him and make him, based on our original group work together.

Every expert needs a defined amount of time and space alone to gestate their ideas, and then a set time to bring them back to the collaboration. It also helped me that the budget was well defined too.

Decide on your tools

Making an early decision on tools and technologies you’re going to use to collaborate with your team means you don’t have to disrupt the process later on.

It also means that your collaborators can organise all the training, passwords, and admin rights they need, before disrupting the flow of the process.

When you’re deciding what form of collaborative tools to use, you might want to ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much training will each person need on the tools?
  2. What kind of tool is easiest to dip into and catch up on the project status for those who are new to the project?
  3. Who is responsible for deciding on the tools to use?


What tools will you use to speak, chat, and generally communicate with one another? What are the boundaries on your communications?

Document creation and sharing

What tools will you be using to share documents? What kind of documents will you be sharing?

Scheduling, prioritisation, or backlog management

Where can people check in to make sure they are on track?

Workflow management

Where can people see what tasks have been allocated to them, and check in to make sure the process is going smoothly?

  • Trello
  • GatherContent
  • Google Spreadsheet

Snags, bugs, and feedback

Which tool is the easiest for everyone to keep track of (and allocate) changes to the work you’re doing, particularly on digital products?

  • Google Docs
  • Jira
  • Trello


If you are working in the same space as your team, it can be helpful to put tasks and developments up on the walls around you. It’s always easier to have something offline to point at.

Brought to you by GatherContent

GatherContent takes the chaos out of producing website content. Organise your website content in one place, ensuring content is in the right structure, well written and ready for the CMS. GatherContent also manages the workflow and approval processes, ensuring that content is complete and ready on time.

Part 3Maintain good practice

Other people have so much to recommend them, they will help you see outside yourself; they will rally when you’re flagging, they will offer ideas that push you to be better. But they will also constantly require interaction and communication. Other people are your allies, but that alliance takes sustained effort to build. And you should be prepared for that, not irritated by it.”
Ed CatmullFrom Pixar, in Creativity Inc.

Maintain healthy communication

We seldom say ‘That’s a bad idea’ or ‘That won’t work’. When we disagree with someone else’s idea, we push ourselves to ask ‘What would make it better? What can I add?... When a group embraces the concept of building on the ideas of others it can unleash all sorts of creative energy.”
Tom & David Kelley, Creative Confidence
The secret to the momentum and flow in any successful collaboration lies in how people communicate with one another” Tweet this

The secret to the momentum and flow in any successful collaboration lies in the way people communicate with one another, and the way they set up their communications. Part of the art of good communication, is to become self-aware of your own style of communication.

Take a moment to reflect on the way you communicate. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.

  • How might you describe your tendencies when you communicate?
  • How do other people receive the way you communicate?
  • What would you like to improve about the way you communicate?
  • Do you plan what you are going to say while people are speaking?
  • How do you deal with confrontation or rejection?
  • Do you make eye contact with people?
  • Are you more of a yes person than a no person, or the other way around?
  • What is your sense of timing like?
  • How do you deliver difficult feedback?

If you feel comfortable doing so, it can be helpful to share these answers with your group. In this way, you can manage expectations and be aware of one another’s communication styles.

Techniques for collaborative communication abound and could fill an entire book in themselves. Here are two communication techniques you can try:

Technique 1Develop your listening skills.

Face to Face Activity

Real conversation is where people speak, listen, and have the potential to be changed.”
Lee SimpsonImprovisor, The Comedy Store, London

We often say "He or she didn't listen" when we don't feel we've been heard. Being able to listen attentively is about being non-judgmental when someone is speaking, and temporarily abandoning your plan for what you are going to say next. This is a helpful exercise that allows you to loosen your grip on the direction you want something to take.


Sit opposite a partner. You are both going to tell a story, one word at a time without pausing for too long to think about the next word. For example:

  • Person 1: Once
  • Person 2: upon
  • Person 1: a
  • Person 2: time
  • Person 1: high
  • Person 2: in
  • Person 1: the
  • Person 2: sky

Do this for 5 minutes, and then spend some time analysing the results. How did you feel? Often people feel frustration that the story is not going in the direction they intended, or that it takes funny turns.

Inspired by: an improvisation theatre workshop with Lee Simpson

Technique 2Dealing with conflict without judgement, blame, or criticism

Individual Activity

It is somewhat inevitable that you will hit challenging patches in your communication with collaborators. Approaching a conflict in this way reduces the level of antagonism between two people. The more pressure that is on, the more a deadline looms, it can be easy to fall into unhelpful patterns of communication.

To help you express what is working for you, and what is not, try this exercise to form sentences that do not blame or criticise. Try it alone first, before working with others.

  1. Choose a situation in which you felt conflicted. E.g. I was offended by my colleague, they talked over the top of me.
  2. Make an observation by saying "I observed that (I saw, heard, felt, or noticed)" E.g. "I noticed that you started talking when I was talking"
  3. Say how you feel about it in emotional terms "I felt... mad/ sad/ angry/ scared" E.g. "I felt annoyed."
  4. Now say what you need or what you value E.g. "Because I needed to express my opinion."
  5. Make a clear request. E.g. "Could you give me a moment to express my opinion."

Advice from our experts on effective communication:

All teams manage a certain level of chaos and uncertainty. Through clear expectations, you can reduce conflicts and assumptions, set standards, and improve alignment.

Keep people informed and be transparent about how decisions get made, when, and how. Let them know about your needs when it comes to timing, material, and other support. Identify risks in advance to reduce firefighting and last minute requests.”

Melissa Breker Content Strategist, Coach, and Facilitator at Breker Group

The key to resolving conflict is to discover the underlying needs that drive our different strategies. Don't assume you understand why someone is asking for a specific route or strategy. Instead, ask them what that strategy would achieve. Once you understand the needs, you can invite people to work together to find solutions that meet everyone's needs, without compromise.”

Jonathan Kahn Organiser of Agile Content Conf

I've found the most important thing to making us active listeners is to remember: other team member's motivations are their own, and people engage best when they understand how your motivations line up with theirs. Remember that understanding what people are going for, and their concerns about getting there, is essential to you getting your own things done.”

Noz Urbina Content Strategist & Founder, Urbina Consulting

Further Reading

Non-violent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg. Further sources and explanation.

Clean Language, by David Grove

Establish team rituals

Every time people begin a piece of work together, they automatically begin to establish a culture with a ‘way’ of doing things.

Having regular team rituals can help to make this culture explicit for the following reasons:

  • If a newcomer joins, they know how to fit in easily
  • If there is a problem or dispute, it can be sorted out face to face (even if it’s over a video conference call)
  • When the team members can relate socially, people connect and collaborate with greater ease
  • Rituals create a sense of routine, and a place to come back to, particularly when the pressure is on

Sometimes a team’s way of working grows organically and comfortably over time but it can be helpful to stop, take stock and decide on the habits and rituals that would be helpful for you. You can set up rituals to occur daily, weekly or monthly, or at intervals that suit the team.

Ritual 1The 5 minute daily standup

The Agile methodology popularised this method of allowing teams (particularly groups of people working together from different disciplines) to check in with one another daily to talk about their project progress.

At the beginning of the day, each person stands up, and in turn they state:

  1. What they did yesterday
  2. What they're going to do today
  3. What their blockers are

For dispersed teams, a video conference and a daily stand up call can be crucial for keeping the team on track.

Ritual 2The meeting check-in

Do you ever find yourself trying to mind-read a person’s mood during a meeting? We often bring feelings and moods into our meetings that have little to do with our collaborators. It can be healthy to find out ‘where people are at’ before the meeting starts.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Once everyone is settled, say something to the effect of “I’d like to ask how everyone is?” or “Let’s do a quick check in, just to see where everyone is at before we start.”
  2. Go round the table and hear everyone’s statement. The emphasis should be on how people are feeling, rather than their opinions about the meeting.
  3. Try to prevent people responding to each other’s statements. Don’t comment on people’s feelings if you can help it, and certainly don’t disagree with anything anyone says. You don’t want to start a discussion.
  4. You might want to check out at the end of the meeting. In our company we found these to be particularly fruitful in unexpected ways.

Set up governance and a workflow

Governance is a term that loosely refers to the standards, policies, responsibilities and guidelines that holds the project or a team together. Once you’ve set up healthy collaborative practices, governance can help set these practices in stone and future-proof your work.

As your project progresses, different people may be involved in the decision making at various stages. Having a set of rules, clear documentation and allocating responsibilities to key individuals means that you don’t have to down tools and go into tactical debates at each turning point.

Clear governance helps you:

  • Maintain consistency
  • Know who is in charge of certain aspects of the project
  • Stay on-brand
  • Fulfil your project goals
  • Scale your project

Even if the individuals on a project change, go on holiday, or if the project stops and starts, having a clear governance framework means that you won’t blow off course.

Here is an example of a set of governance tools for content projects:

  • A tone of voice document for writers and editors
  • A style guide for writers and editors
  • A set of content principles
  • A schedule for the content production
  • A workflow: a framework that states who is conducting writing, editing and fact checking at each stage
Sample workflow screenshot from GatherContent
Sample workflow from GatherContent

An example of a set of governance tools for digital projects in general:

  • Documentation on a digital strategy
  • Documentation on a digital policy
  • Documentation on digital standards
  • Brand guidelines
  • Editorial guidelines
  • An organisational chart of the digital team and their place in the organisation
  • A framework that states who will be editing and signing off pieces of work at each stage

Further Reading

Managing Chaos, Digital Governance by Design, by Lisa Welchman, Rosenberg Books

Introduce new members of the team

Introducing a new collaborator to the team takes time and careful attention to detail. No matter how long this person will be working with you, make sure that you dedicate time and adequate resources to handing over the information they need to do their job.


Consult Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to make sure this person has the facilities they need in order to be able to do their job.


Take time to offer your new collaborator a lot of context around the task they will be working on, this will make it much more meaningful to them, and allow them to see their place in the big picture. Offer them raw materials to start with, as well as any information they need about your group values, mission and any other language you have created as a group.

Instructions and managing expectations

Clearly set out your expectations in relation to this person’s role, including the amount of time you will need them to collaborate for, what you want them to do, and what you hope the outcome to be.

Time alone

Allow time for this person to get up to speed. They may need some independent time to work through any existing documentation, and begin to formulate a plan.


It is ok to offer this person a challenge that they can get stuck into straight away. Keep the first challenge small, so that you can enter a feedback loop as soon as possible.


Take a moment to think about the kind of feedback you would find most useful.

Finding a time and an appropriate method for delivering feedback to your collaborators can be challenging if it isn’t baked into the process from the beginning. You may want to agree how and when you deliver feedback to one another.

If you wish to give someone feedback, you may want to check whether they are in the right frame of mind to receive it. Asking people if they are available and willing to receive feedback is a good way to prepare the ground.

"Would now be a good time to offer you some feedback?"

Constructive criticism.

Delivering constructive criticism to a team member can be a sensitive issue. It is important to speak with positive intent and get straight to the point. Here are some ideas on how to frame the conversation.

Make the content of your feedback:

  1. Timely - When did it happen, and what happened?
  2. Relevant - Who and what was it in relation to?
  3. Specific - What are the exact details and what was the impact?

Spend some time thinking about your approach to giving feedback, and make sure that it is OPEN:

  • Open Minded - Ask the person what their perception of the situation is? Is it different from yours?
  • Positive - Ask yourself ‘What is good about this situation?’ and identify a positive reason for having the discussion.
  • Empowering - Ask the individual what they think the best solution might be, and what support they might need to act on the feedback.
  • Non-judgemental - Describe the situation without bias and help the recipient of your feedback work towards their own conclusion.
  • Finally, make sure you agree on the outcome of the discussion, so that you both know what you are taking away from it.

Further Reading

Non-violent communication: A language of life, by Marshall Rosenberg.

Giving feedback:

Personally, I love giving feedback about content in critique sessions. They are a place where the whole team (designers, developers and content) sit around and talk about content that has been produced. My rules are:

  • remember that everyone did the best job they could at the time
  • talk about the product only, never the person
  • constructive comments only
  • no-one has to defend a decision

Receiving feedback:

You know you can stay quiet, take it all on board and then say, 'I need to think about that and get back to you’? A lot of people don’t do that; they feel they have to justify their position then and there. If the person pushes for a response, go to HR. That is not ok. I use this technique to give myself some space. To think about my response in a measured way, not as a quick reaction.

The number one rule: that’s a person in front of you. Whether you are taking or giving feedback, that is a human right there. Unless they are your best friend in all the world, you don’t know what they are going through. Respect that unknown.”

Sarah Richards Content Strategist, Trainer & Consultant

Brought to you by GatherContent

GatherContent takes the chaos out of producing website content. Organise your website content in one place, ensuring content is in the right structure, well written and ready for the CMS. GatherContent also manages the workflow and approval processes, ensuring that content is complete and ready on time.

Part 4Reap the rewards

Take the time to review the good, bad and downright ugly aspects of your projects, discuss these with the team and ensure you are continually improving the way you work. There’s no place for smoke and mirrors when it comes to successful collaboration. Disseminate all feedback, and don’t forget to celebrate the wins!”
Rob MillsContent Strategist at GatherContent

Broadcasting and education

Every time you collaborate with a group of people, you will have learned something that will be helpful to others. At Clearleft, every time we finish a project we broadcast and educate the team with our learnings via the medium of blog posts, case studies, and conference talks. We also do talks for the rest of our own team, so that they might learn from our experiences.

In the excitement of finishing a collaboration, it can be all too easy to sprint to the end line whilst forgetting that it may be more helpful to pass the baton to other people in your organisation. The most sustainable approach is to empower other people to follow in your footsteps, and offer them the opportunity to use the work you have done to enhance their own. You may wish to set up training sessions, or put some design time into creating a helpful document than can be referred to by anyone who takes over your work.

  • What do you feel you learned from this collaboration?
  • What can the rest of your company learn from the work you've done?
  • How would it be best to communicate it to the wider organisation?
  • What's the best format for wrapping up the work you've done?

Run a retrospective

Once your collaborative process is complete, it’s time to run a retrospective (or more sinister people might call it a 'Post-Mortem').

According to Ed Catmull of Pixar and Disney fame, there are 5 reasons to spend time looking back on what you have done:

  1. “Consolidate what's been learned” - bring clarity to the lessons learned on the project
  2. “Teach others who weren't there” - use it as a forum for learning about what others went through
  3. “Don't let resentments fester” - allow closure on issues that came up in the project
  4. “Use the schedule to force reflection” - this forces people to spend time reflecting before the post-mortem has even happened
  5. “Pay it forward” - raise questions to be asked on the next project

(From Creativity Inc. p.216)

ActivityWalking the timeline

Face-to-Face Activity

During a recent retrospective, our project manager Matt Matheson asked us to physically walk through the timeline of a year long project.

Using four pieces of paper evenly spaced out on the floor, we took it in turns to walk the route in front of the team and mark moments which were memorable for us along the way.

This activity gave insight into people’s different perspectives and the meaningful moments for them.

Inspired by a workshop with Matt Matheson at Improvising Change in Brighton


When we work on projects, we can often spend the journey being fixated on the outcome, and on ‘getting to be’ a success. But how often do we celebrate that success?

Celebration can be as small as a compliment or acknowledgement, or as large as a party.

Take a moment to reflect on a project you have completed:

  • What constituted success during the project?
  • What constituted success at the end of the project?
  • Did you celebrate your successes along the trajectory of the project?
  • Did you celebrate at the end of the project?
  • How did you celebrate?
  • How would you like to celebrate success in future?
  • Did you achieve what you wanted to?

Thank you for reading this book

Collaboration is exercise. On a daily basis that exercise of collaboration practically demands that every group member thinks about their own ‘way of being’ and takes responsibility for creating the conditions in which a collaboration can thrive. Every day is a new opportunity to look at how you can improve collaborative practices with everyone you work with.

As a result of reading this book, take a moment to think about how you intend to approach your next collaboration and write your intentions below.

These are the things I intend to carry into my next collaboration:

Good luck!

Ellen de Vries

About the Author

Headshot of Ellen de Vries

Ellen de Vries

Content Strategist, Clearleft

Ellen de Vries is a Content Strategist at Clearleft, a strategic design consultancy based in Brighton, UK. Being a Content Strategist is by nature a collaborative role; on any one day she might be working with a range of people, from designers and developers to animators and AI experts.

Over the last two years, she’s been working with brands such as Penguin Random House, big household names in UK retail and a charity who campaign for young people’s human rights. The outcomes of her work are wide ranging, from creating messaging and stories for cross-channel digital experiences, to brand language and tone of voice shifts, to breaking down silos and structuring content teams. She's also a regular speaker and workshop leader for national and international conferences.

In a world where digital design practices are becoming increasingly fragmented, Ellen’s mission is to work with multidisciplinary groups to establish a shared language that gives them a spark and propels their collaboration forward.

Contact Ellen

About where Ellen works

Clearleft are a strategic design consultancy based in Brighton, UK. The team of researchers, strategists, designers, UXers and technologists build vision, carve out strategies and work with product and service teams to implement design. They’ve worked with an array of British household names like John Lewis and the BBC and global brands like Penguin and Virgin.

Their range of work varies vastly; from designing straight-up websites to adventures in personalisation, and from pioneering work in pattern libraries to developing experiential eco-systems. Over the past 12 years the team have become known worldwide for their dedication to knowledge sharing in the industry as speakers, authors and regular curators of design and leadership conferences.

Our Expert Contributors

Headshot of Sarah Richards

Sarah Richards

Content Strategist, Trainer & Consultant

Sarah’s been working in content for far longer than she admits. She started as a graphic designer, fell into copywriting and was shoved, quite unceremoniously, into content quality assurance.

After working at Saatchi’s and Ogilvy’s, Sarah took on a short stint in government.

Ten years later, she was still there and led the Government Digital Service’s content team to cutting government content by 82% for GOV.UK. She’s banned words from Whitehall and her team won the D&AD Black Pencil in Writing for Design – the only time a black pencil (the top accolade) has been won in that category for the 16 years the global competition has been running.

Sarah now consults and provides training in content strategy and content design to governments and organisations around the world.

Headshot of Noz Urbina

Noz Urbina

Content Strategist

Noz Urbina is a globally recognised content strategist and modeller. He’s well known as a pioneer in customer journey mapping and adaptive content modelling to support personalised, contextually relevant content for omnichannel experiences. He is also co-author of the book Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits

Headshot of Jonathan Kahn

Jonathan Kahn

Organiser of Agile Content Conf

Jonathan Kahn organises agile content conf, where you can learn practices to help teams work together on content. He also organises the London Agile Content Meetup which has 2000 members. He’s @lucidplot on twitter.

Headshot of Melissa Breker

Melissa Breker

Content Strategist, Coach, and Facilitator at Breker Group

Melissa is the founder of Breker Group Consulting.

With over 15 years of experience leading marketing, content strategy, and social media projects for agencies and large corporations, Melissa loves to make a difference through content strategy and governance.

She has worked in multiple industries with large and entrepreneurial organizations to tie business goals and audience requirements together to create measurable results.

She works with creative agencies, customer experience teams, product developers, and marketing strategists to inspire and evolve teams to generate results.

From technology to government and non-profit organizations, Melissa takes a collaborative, systematic, thoughtful, and analytical approach to the projects that she completes.

As a content consultant, speaker and teacher, she’s developed courses for the University of British Columbia, Langara College, Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.

Melissa is passionate about helping teams deliver results through consulting, training, and workshops.

Headshot of Robert Mills

Robert Mills

Content Strategist, GatherContent

Rob is a Content Strategist at GatherContent, responsible for developing, implementing, measuring and refining their content strategy. He also collaborates with other content folk as the editor-in-chief of the GatherContent blog.

He is a journalism graduate, ex-BBC audience researcher, and former studio and project manager. Robert is a published author and has written for leading web publications Net Mag, 24 Ways, Smashing Magazine, WebTuts, Shopify, UX Matters, Content Marketing Institute and UX Booth.

When he isn’t talking, writing, or reading about content, you can find him looking for typewriters to add to his collection, travelling whenever possible, or being held for ransom by his two cats.

About GatherContent

We’re here because content matters. It’s crucial and should be seen as a source of value, not just another cost. But the tools that exist are ill-fitting and fail content producers. We’re changing these accepted, broken ways of working on content to help teams collaborate on content at scale.

Our online platform helps teams easily organise and produce content. Born from first-hand experience of the stress associated with wrangling content for websites, and content not being given the respect it deserves, GatherContent is working to change that through education, advocacy and better ways of working.

Since launching in 2012 we've helped tens of thousands of teams, across 135 countries, avoid hours of pain. We continually strive for a better way to organise, structure, produce, manage and migrate content. We’re fighting the good fight against bad content.

You can improve the way you work with content too. Learn more about our platform.

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