Today I want to talk to you about teamwork. Yes, that skill everyone seems to have on their CV and LinkedIn profile, yet “this is a group project” is probably one of the most terrifying sentences a college or university professor can say.
I have been working closely with my colleagues at Scite since the start, but last week I was asked to work in writing an article, not as in I write and someone else proofreads it, but as in we write it together. This could have been ground for tensions if badly organized, but making every step of the process a collaboration has been the key to our success.
We first read the information the client sent us and did some research to get comfortable with the topic and have one same starting point, and arranged a meeting some days later to talk about the report and define the structure and the key points that should be included in the article and why. There are lots of approaches to a subject, and usually not only a correct one. So, do we provide an overview or cover specific areas? Do we talk about general terms or focus on specific studies and data? What tone should we use? How many sections should it have and what length are we aiming for? We discussed all these matters, defined a preliminary outline, and divided its sections into two parts to work individually on those.
Discussing the structure before doing any writing was something new for me, as someone whose process usually consists of writing thoughts and ideas as they come to mind and then finding what I want to say and arranging it all into a cohesive text. I hardly ever focus strongly on the final structure beforehand, I just write, and, to quote the iconic Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: life (in this case writing), uh, finds a way. But clearly defining how the article should be was essential to not overlap our work and find a clear direction, as well as being on the same page concerning the tone and style. Two brains at work brought richness in perspectives to the final draft as we could work on the best ideas from each other, and, as we kept finding ourselves exploring the same key points and similar approaches, that felt like a validation into my thinking process and felt confident with what I was bringing into the table.
As always, the main star in the whole process was communication. Since we were writing the article whilst juggling other tasks, informing the other in our progress was crucial, and so was providing honest feedback: avoiding negative words, not undermining the other’s work and ideas, and criticizing the writing, not the writer. Though we had defined a structure and main talking points, we kept an open discussion for fresh ideas and were not bothered if the other suggested changes. After some virtual meetings and many comments on the word document, the article is pretty much done; the final step is adjusting the style, tone, and cohesiveness so that it doesn’t result in one of those messy “everyone does their part and then we’ll join them together” group projects.