Building collaborative projects - how to
play nice with others

Damien Stuart Wood
Art Heroes Contributor + Self-Proclaimed
Wannabe Art Guy at the end of his rope

Sprawled out, belly-down on the cool, green grass, you grin. You've got this.

Around you, a meticulously planned and planted plastic army awaits its orders. They'll fight for you. They'll die for you if necessary. But your setup is so perfect, you're sure you'll be home in time for milk and cookies.

Elsewhere on this field lie other young generals leading three-and-three-quarter-inch kill squads. But they're no matter. You know they didn't think of the trees, or that creek down the way.

And knowing's half the battle. You heard that somewhere.

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Then Kyle comes running over the hill. He's screaming like an idiot and kicking over every god-damned thing in his path. He whips barbarians, aliens, and robots at whoever pokes their head up to suggest he might be going about this wrong. And when he runs out of ammo he bites a kid.

He's pretty sure he won.

Stiff-lipped and watery-eyed, you march, scooping up your failed forces.

You inform everyone, with all the authority you can muster only a couple of years removed from being a toddler, that you're done, and this time you mean it.

You take your toys and you go home.

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Flash-forward some years and here you are joining a team to make cool stuff. Maybe it's in person. Maybe it's over Zoom, given that we're still living in the Age of Plague and all. I dunno. Stick with me here. (You have for this long.)

Look around. You'll see a version of each ideaman you met on the battlefield back in the day. Every one of them with a different talent base. A different skill set. A different method for approaching problems built upon a different understanding of the world around them.

There's a Kyle here somewhere, also.

If you don't see one, then tonight, when you go home, pour yourself a stiff drink and spend time contemplating that. Because there's always a Kyle, Kyle.

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Anyway, you came here to make cool stuff and this is how cool stuff gets made.

People who may or may not have anything at all in common beyond their core reason for being here are going to pitch ideas, sometimes agree, sometimes butt heads, try things, break things, put things back together and zone in on what works and weed out what doesn't.

None of that happens if you take your toys and go home, though.

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So here's what needs to occur if you
want to fare well in this fight:
  • 1
    Go in with an open mind
    The adage "You get what you give" is true. If you go into a situation-- any situation, really, but absolutely a situation where multiple egos are at play-- expecting a poopshow, well, a poopshow you shall receive. Instead, go in ready to work.
  • 2
    Listen to the people around you
    Part of being ready to work is being willing to consider the thoughts of those around you. There is no scenario for which you have all the answers. But the answers you don't have, you'll find someone else in the room might.
  • 3
    Be willing to let go
    You're not going to stick the landing with every idea you have. Maybe that thing you think is great falls flat because it actually, you know, isn't. That's fine. Move on. Or maybe it is great, but it's not going to fit right now. That's fine, too. Park that bit of brilliance somewhere for later. And move on.
  • 4
    Judge a thing by its whole
    At the end of the day, it's about the final product. Messy as it might be to get there sometimes, if you made cool stuff, that's what matters. I mean, that's why you're here, isn't it?
  • 5
    Get used to it
    Learn to love the process of leaning on others and having others lean on you because this is probably not a one-off. Odds are you're going to have to do this again, and again, and again. Maybe with the same people. Maybe new ones. If you can function within a team, you'll be a better human for it, I promise.
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Oh, and here's a thing. Kyle? That person's going to be exactly what the team needs, sooner or later.

Sometimes, the person who'll brute-force their way through a problem, using unexpected if not completely inexplicable tactics, and raise their voice or maybe even get a little bitey to defend the team's work... sometimes, that person comes in handy.

Catch you soon,


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