Why Vision Comes First in Collaboration

by Cathy Browne, @

12th May 2015

One of the advantages of marrying a creative person is that they draw out your own sense of creativity. Before I married Rob I knew I liked to work with words, I enjoyed writing, speaking and I kept journals, but I didn’t describe myself as a creative person. But living in close quarters with a creative changes you. Over time I began to experiment and push the boundaries on my own sense of creativity and it wasn’t long before Rob and I started dreaming of projects and ideas that we could both contribute to. The biggest one being Creative Kingdom of course!

At some point in the future I would love to do a tongue-in-cheek article about all the quirks that come to the surface when you marry a creative person…their love of Pantone themed products being number one on the list! But for now I just want to share one lesson I have learned about working with a creative person, especially when that person is your husband or wife, because the results can be rather special.

Vision First, Details Second.

One of the first ways Rob and I started working together creatively was when Rob became my personal designer for all the visuals for my messages. When I speak now Rob designs the PowerPoint, handouts and will even create personalized videos! I’ve found having my visuals designed really helps to punch up the message and hopefully makes the content memorable for the listeners.

There comes a time in the sermon-prep when I email Rob an actual brief of what needs to be in the PowerPoint and hand-outs, but that is usually the last step of the process, not the first. Our work doesn’t start with a list of tasks to give to my husband, because even from the beginning this is a partnership not a chore.

The starting point comes some weeks before where we just have a series of chats about the message. This is where the husband and wife advantage kicks in because we don’t need to book in a meeting to do this!

The conversation normally begins with me sharing what I am thinking of speaking on and why I think it is an important topic. We start the process by looking at the ‘Why’ of the message, Why are we doing this? What do I want to achieve? Why does this need to be said? The ‘why’ dictates everything else; the content, the tone, the feel, the pace and the presentation all stem from the ‘why’.

About a year ago I told Rob that I wanted to speak about loneliness. We spent a long time talking about all the different circumstances that can cause people to be lonely; we talked about changing jobs or schools, losing friends to bereavement or conflict, and how sometimes just being different from the people around you can make you feel lonely.

As we talked I came to see that everyone faces seasons of loneliness in their lives and that it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes being on our own for a while can do us good, but no one is built for a lifetime of loneliness.

My message began to find its direction. I wanted to acknowledge that loneliness didn’t mean you were a terrible person, because everyone goes through periods of feeling alone. But I didn’t want to stop there. I wanted to talk about the things we can do to leave the loneliness behind and move on to something better. It turns out God’s word had plenty to say on the topic and over the next few weeks I kept on talking to Rob about what I was discovering.

A few days before I was due to speak Rob sent me the PowerPoint Slides for the talk. As I flicked through the slides I noticed they started off very dark in tone, with black and white photos and stark writing but as the message progressed they grew warmer and more cheerful.

Leaving-Lonliness-Behind---web kindness---web

Rob knew that the aim of the message was to provide a road-map to help people move past seasons of loneliness, to lead people out of a dark state of mind to something more hopeful. He designed the slides to follow that purpose, starting in a dark place and slowly lifting throughout the message to end on a hopeful image. It was a subtle but powerful reinforcement of the key thought of the message; there is hope for everyone, no one has to feel alone forever.

All of that was Rob’s input, it was not an idea I had suggested and asked him to do. It was Rob’s interpretation of the purpose of the message. Rob was able to do that because we had spent more time talking about the ‘why’ than we had talking about the ‘what’.

When you are working with creative people, whether they are your partner or not, spend a good chunk of your time talking about what you want to achieve and how you want it to feel. Talk through the purpose and the background to what you are doing. You might not understand how that information could possibly translate in a PowerPoint slide or a poster, or a sketch or a piece of music….but a creative person who is very good at their art will know. They will see it as you talk about it. If you can tell them what you want to achieve they will see what it needs to look like clearer that you do!

Since working with Rob I have found other people to partner with for my messages. I’ll ask our tech team to create a lighting visual or invite someone to share their testimony. I even arranged once for a member of our youth to fly in a model helicopter mid way through the message as the A Team theme tune thundered over the sound system! And as silly as that may sound, I promise you there is a reason behind each thing! What I continue to find is that getting people on board and involved with the reason behind your efforts creates a new sense of excitement and purpose with each new venture.

Suddenly it’s not you against the world, it’s you and your team setting out to achieve something good together. Yes, there is a risk of being misunderstood or misinterpreted when you involve others in your dreams and plans, but actually I have not found that to be much of a problem. I think we risk more by sticking to what feels safe and never exploring the art of collaboration. You see, working with someone on a project, especially when it is your husband or wife, has to be more dynamic than one person in charge, one person doing the work. It has to lean more towards a partnership where you both meaningfully contribute to get the best result

This means being open to change and new ideas from the other person. Once the vision is in place and understood let the team have some creative freedom with the details. If you stick rigidly to your ideas just because they are your ideas you are going to miss out. Instead we have to allow for the possibility that others could have something to offer beyond your expectations. That’s when all the best things happen!

Author: Cathy Browne

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