Learn from My Mistake: How to Collaborate Better

Kathryn HaydonBusiness, Grow Your Creativity

Learn from My Mistake: How to Collaborate Better

By Kathryn P. Haydon

Business, Grow Your Creativity

The Big Mistake 

I could have avoided a fail. My colleague and I had spent months preparing an all-day workshop to help a 90-person group integrate creative thinking into their jobs. We had over-prepared, prepped our materials, and were sitting in the hotel lobby the day before the event. 

Looking over our agenda, my colleague said to me, “I think we need to make changes.”

I sighed. “No way!” I said. “We’ve spent months planning; there can’t be anything we missed.” 

I was the lead and my word was final. 

Truthfully, I was ready to GO. Yet, if I had taken a moment to break through the “inertia of my no,”I’d have realized that it was my low preference speaking. I would have realized the need to embrace my colleague’s high preference and we’d have made two tweaks that would have improved our final product. 

What do I mean, “It was my preference talking”?

If Thinking Preferences Could Talk

Whenever we are tasked with doing something that requires new thinking or creation, like designing a workshop, we engage in the universal creative process . This process can be broken into four stages. Here are the stages and how they aligned with my colleague’s and my approach to workshop design. 


We spent hours with our client, learning about the audience, the objectives, and the setting. 


We thought up ideas for workshop modules, played around with different possibilities, and finally chose what we’d teach based on the client’s objectives and constraints. 


We planned the details for each workshop, refined them, created materials, slides, and other supporting elements. 


We made a plan and delivered the workshop.

In that moment the day before the event, I’d had enough of the develop stage. I was ready to get. it. done. I wanted to implement. I should have known this to be a red flag. 

When my creative process preferences are measured by the FourSight Thinking Profile , I prefer implementation to development. I have much more energy for it. My colleague in this scenario has lots of energy for development. I was aware of this and should have used my knowledge of our preferences to improve our process and product. 

When we understand our own and each others’ problem solving preferences, we can use deliberate strategies to leverage them and create breakthrough thinking teams. We ensure that our process is solid, leading to winning results. 

Lesson Learned

Recently I was in a similar position. It was the night before I was to deliver a corporate training with a colleague. I again had spent months developing this workshop but this time I remembered to follow the best practices I preach. I remembered to recognize my own lower energy for development and leverage her high energy for development. We spent hours making tweaks tailored to our audience and the workshop went off brilliantly. 

Knowing the four stages of the universal creative process is key to collaborating better. When we understand how our own preferences rise and fall over the arc of the process, and how our teammates’ do the same, we can leverage them to ensure we’re not skipping any steps and that our resulting product is the best, most engaging, elegant, and useful it can be.

For more on the universal creative process and strategies to use in each of its stages, pick up a copy of my latest book, The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative.


Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.

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