How Collaboration Transformed an Outdoor Brand’s Team Culture
Adolfo is leading a marketing team in a new direction by creating a culture of collaboration.
IDEO U COURSE COMPLETED: Cultivating Creative Collaboration
“I had to find the tools to lead a team creatively as soon as possible—because if you want people to give you their best ideas, you have to cultivate the conditions for people to collaborate effectively.”
Could you tell us about yourself?
I work in marketing at an outdoor and fitness brand, with operations in Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. My work involves strategy and product development on the marketing side.
We make creative assets for social media and e-commerce, packaging design, and catalogs for clients. I lead a team of five people as the coordinator of our area, and my day-to-day work involves balancing a lot of requests from many groups across different countries.
Why did you decide to take IDEO U courses?
I've been a regular listener of the Creative Confidence Podcast since 2019. During the pandemic, I was unexpectedly promoted to a leadership position because we were in a moment where many people on my team left. As I became a team lead, I found that it was such a different experience. There is a huge gap between being really good at your job as a marketer and leading people, and I needed new techniques and mindsets to cross that gap.
That's why I took the Cultivating Creative Collaboration course. I had to find the tools to lead a team creatively as soon as possible—because if you want people to give you their best ideas, you realize that you can’t just tell people what to do and give all the ideas yourself. You have to cultivate the conditions for people to collaborate effectively and create amazing work without you being involved.
“There is a huge gap between being really good at your job as a marketer and leading people, and I needed new techniques and mindsets to cross that gap.”
What did you learn from Cultivating Creative Collaboration?
I hadn't really led a brainstorming session before—and when I did one with our team, it was really powerful. We started collaborating in a creative way. We built on the ideas of others. We ended up with two or three campaign ideas to move forward with.
Before, we didn't really sit down and share ideas without judgment. And at first, our team was like, “Why are we doing a brainstorming session when there’s so much project work to do?” It took a little convincing to get them to try and experiment with something they were totally not used to. The team was used to just executing and finding the fastest possible way to finish a project. I knew that we were missing something.
Adolfo decided to lead his team through a brainstorming session.
What I see now is people talking more freely about things that were too uncomfortable to talk about before, and I see that as a huge step forward. They're not afraid to give important feedback. What used to happen is that people wouldn’t say anything to not rock the boat. We’ve started to speak up and say what’s working and not working.
“I hadn't really led a brainstorming session before—and when I did one with our team, it was really powerful. We started collaborating in a creative way.”
How have these learnings changed the culture of your team?
Before taking the course, if three people worked on something together, I don’t think it would have worked. There was simply no process. Everybody was siloed and working by themselves, and everyone had one-to-one relationships with others on the team. It was like an assembly line—you passed on work to a designer, then they would give the design to the social media manager, who would write the copy and pass it along. It felt like we were building a Frankenstein product, because everybody would add a different part.
We set team agreements, because we hadn't really thought about the best ways for us to work together and what we wanted from each other. It brought to light many things that we weren’t considering before and helped us redefine how we were working.
For example, we realized that the best time for designers to be creative was in the afternoon, so we gave them uninterrupted work time then. It worked wonderfully. They felt more engaged, like we were listening to them and respecting their ways of working. We also implemented a no-meeting Friday policy, and Fridays have become the day when we’ve made our best creative work.
After discussing team agreements, Adolfo realized that designers on his team preferred heads-down working time in the afternoons.
Do you have any favorite moments from the course?
During Cultivating Creative Collaboration, we were having a session and there was a tension in the room that we hadn’t addressed. I brought attention to it and everybody felt a little bit uncomfortable, and then we started talking about it. I really liked how the atmosphere in the room completely changed when we addressed the tension. Everybody started sharing their points of view, and it just felt so different and interesting. The understanding that was created in the room was really helpful for our relationships with one another, and we started to become closer.
What made this experience the most interesting is meeting people from all over the world. I got to see what leaders are doing in other industries and the challenges they’re working on. I had the chance to talk to someone from Moscow, then London half an hour later, and then somebody from Denver. It's amazing having people all across the globe in one community and platform.
“I had the chance to talk to someone from Moscow, then London half an hour later, and then somebody from Denver. It's amazing having people all across the globe in one community and platform.”
What advice would you give other learners?
My advice to get the most out of these courses is going out into the real world and having an experimentation mindset. The concepts may seem simple, but the moment you apply them, you start to see things really differently. The way I think about leadership is radically different to what it was before taking the course. The lessons and assignments are so powerful when you use them in your work, especially when you tackle the most challenging tasks that you have.
For people who are considering signing up for a course, I totally recommend it. They’re really hands-on, and all about doing and learning by doing. It’s a great opportunity to grow and learn practical mindsets and tools to move forward in your career.
What’s next for you?
I'm working on my facilitation and coaching skills in my professional life. I’m considering my next career move right now, and I’m getting all of these interviews—and IDEO U courses have helped a lot. I want more opportunities to lead teams and have a bigger impact with marketing.
Check more stories from our IDEO U learner community and learn how to foster collaboration on your team in our online course Cultivating Creative Collaboration.
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