To collaborate on content, go beyond arguments to find an approach that works for everyone

To collaborate on content, go beyond arguments to find an approach that works for everyone

2 minute read

To collaborate on content, go beyond arguments to find an approach that works for everyone

2 minute read

To collaborate on content, go beyond arguments to find an approach that works for everyone

Jonathan Kahn

Facilitator and conference organiser

We recently conducted a survey about content collaboration. The results and insights we gained from the responses will be shared in a series of articles. This first post is by Jonathan Kahn, who we paired with for the survey, organiser of agile content conf.

A common theme of content collaboration challenges

I learned from the survey that collaboration is a problem for content professionals. It’s a blocker, something that stops work getting done. I heard frustration in the responses: from difficulty getting stakeholders together to a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities. The consequences included a lack of consistency in content, content that didn’t meet standards and guidelines, and time wasted as content is reworked over and over.

When asked about collaboration challenges, people talked about problems they experienced when working with stakeholders. Here’s my interpretation of the responses. We content professionals know how to write effective content, and we can prove it. The problem is that our stakeholders often see things differently. They offer opinions and anecdotes, play politics, or appeal to emotion. Many of them appear to think of themselves as writing experts, even when it’s our job to write. Some respondents perceived a lack of respect for the role of content.

Why does it happen?

What’s going on here? Here’s my take. We have a lot of evidence, data, and best practices to backup our approaches, and we’re happy to present it to stakeholders in the hope that they will follow our recommendations. But when they see things differently, we continue with the same strategy: more data, more evidence. We try to convince them that we’re right by making a stronger argument.

When people give feedback that doesn’t align with our recommendations, it can seem like they’re deliberately making our lives more difficult. They probably aren’t, though. They just have a different perspective.

How can we get past this?

We can’t force other people to see our perspective. If we want to make progress in our content projects, we need to stop arguing and open up to understanding the reasons behind our stakeholders’ positions. Why does the subject matter expert want to use jargon? What is the lawyer’s concern about the wording we want to use? What’s behind the manager’s anecdote that doesn’t match up with what we found in usability tests? Once we start asking these questions, we can begin to understand the context around our stakeholders’ decisions.

Does this mean giving up our values? Giving up on making digital experiences that work for the user? Not at all. We’re not giving up our values, we’re putting them into practice by finding an approach that satisfies everyone. Collaboration techniques work by creating a shared understanding of all the constraints around a content problem—whether they’re business needs, technical limitations, or budget considerations—and then working together to find an approach that satisfies all of them.

We recently conducted a survey about content collaboration. The results and insights we gained from the responses will be shared in a series of articles. This first post is by Jonathan Kahn, who we paired with for the survey, organiser of agile content conf.

A common theme of content collaboration challenges

I learned from the survey that collaboration is a problem for content professionals. It’s a blocker, something that stops work getting done. I heard frustration in the responses: from difficulty getting stakeholders together to a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities. The consequences included a lack of consistency in content, content that didn’t meet standards and guidelines, and time wasted as content is reworked over and over.

When asked about collaboration challenges, people talked about problems they experienced when working with stakeholders. Here’s my interpretation of the responses. We content professionals know how to write effective content, and we can prove it. The problem is that our stakeholders often see things differently. They offer opinions and anecdotes, play politics, or appeal to emotion. Many of them appear to think of themselves as writing experts, even when it’s our job to write. Some respondents perceived a lack of respect for the role of content.

Why does it happen?

What’s going on here? Here’s my take. We have a lot of evidence, data, and best practices to backup our approaches, and we’re happy to present it to stakeholders in the hope that they will follow our recommendations. But when they see things differently, we continue with the same strategy: more data, more evidence. We try to convince them that we’re right by making a stronger argument.

When people give feedback that doesn’t align with our recommendations, it can seem like they’re deliberately making our lives more difficult. They probably aren’t, though. They just have a different perspective.

How can we get past this?

We can’t force other people to see our perspective. If we want to make progress in our content projects, we need to stop arguing and open up to understanding the reasons behind our stakeholders’ positions. Why does the subject matter expert want to use jargon? What is the lawyer’s concern about the wording we want to use? What’s behind the manager’s anecdote that doesn’t match up with what we found in usability tests? Once we start asking these questions, we can begin to understand the context around our stakeholders’ decisions.

Does this mean giving up our values? Giving up on making digital experiences that work for the user? Not at all. We’re not giving up our values, we’re putting them into practice by finding an approach that satisfies everyone. Collaboration techniques work by creating a shared understanding of all the constraints around a content problem—whether they’re business needs, technical limitations, or budget considerations—and then working together to find an approach that satisfies all of them.

Webinar Recording

Bring teams together around digital projects simple collaboration techniques

Ideas to help you foster a collaborative culture in any multi-disciplinary team.

June 15, 2017

6:55 am

Register now

Webinar Recording

Bring teams together around digital projects simple collaboration techniques

Ideas to help you foster a collaborative culture in any multi-disciplinary team.

June 15, 2017

6:55 am

Watch now
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About the author

Jonathan Kahn

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.

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