How ‘Swarming’ Can Boost Writers’ Creativity and Prevent Burn Out

It's a group writing process that keeps ideas flowing

Workflows like swarming can improve creative flow and efficiency.
Getty Images

When it comes to workflow, most creative agencies function in a simple linear structure. Large-scale writing projects are divvied up between team members. A single employee is in charge of a single project end-to-end, with others usually giving only skin-deep or advisory feedback. Sure, it works. But the whole purpose of a creative agency is to foster constructive collaboration. If we’re not working together, what’s the point?

Agencies interested in staying on the cutting edge need to start considering other approaches to workflow. Consider what would happen if instead of allotting writing projects in separate silos for different members, an entire team tackled projects together, one after the other. The result? Swarm writing. “Swarming” is designed to bring more minds into the creative process, to break down complex topics, spark collaboration and speed up the pace of delivery.

Here’s what swarming looks like. A new writing project comes down the pipeline. Rather than asking, “Who can tackle this?” members with bandwidth immediately jump in and start writing. Authors and editors funnel in and out of the collaborative process, filling in the remaining gaps and learning from each other’s work along the way. As the project closes out, the time needed for feedback is reduced dramatically, as every member has been a part of the creative process. Then it’s off to the client for review.

Agencies hoping to remain competitive need to reevaluate their workflows.

Looking at projects from a new angle

Diversity drives creativity. Too often, a single writer will be stuck drafting every piece of writing for a single client. Writers can easily get into ruts, relying on the same formulas and even the same turns of phrase for every piece of writing. Although one writer may have more expertise on a specific topic, others can provide fresh perspectives, which will ultimately help make the piece stand out.

As an agency swarms, more writers become experts on a wider range of topics. The system builds on itself, becoming more efficient and informed. Swarming helps keep writing and ideas just as fresh for clients who have been with you for years as it does clients who just joined on.

Piquing employee interest

Over half of Americans report being unengaged or actively disengaged at work. And when you ask millennials, that number grows to a flooring 71 percent. Much of the reason these younger employees aren’t feeling engaged is that they are not being included on meaningful projects. The most in-touch and forward-thinking campaign ideas are coming from younger minds (not to mention that millennials make up the largest generational bloc in the workforce). By swarming, agencies can give every employee, but especially young employees, a hand in important projects.

Agencies that enable younger employees to participate in meaningful projects can increase engagement while also minimizing recruiting costs. After all, the more engaged employees are the less likely they are to leave. And with the average cost per hire hovering around $4,400, cutting back on recruiting can lead to significant savings. Agencies that are willing to share some responsibility with younger workers could reap rewards sooner rather than later.

Shortening time to delivery

The hierarchical feedback chain that exists in most creative agencies today simply isn’t conducive to speed. Whether it’s paid time off or an unexpected sick day, there’s no limit to the number of roadblocks that can keep a project from making its way to the client. With swarm writing, however, a team can shrug off these issues.

By paving the way for collaboration among several employees, swarm writing promises to take work out of silos. The result? Fewer hang-ups during the development process. When a single employee is out, the whole team can band together to push a project forward.

How to start swarming

So how should companies actually go about bringing swarming into their daily work? The first step is to implement a system that promotes collaboration. Is your team constantly passing Word documents back and forth with tiny line edits? It’s time to switch to a more collaborative, agile system. Try working in a tool like Google Docs instead, and use a project management solution that can democratize your workflow by giving every writer access. Then introduce your team to the idea of swarming. Try it out on a smaller piece of writing, then grow to more and more complex projects.

Agencies are always performing a balancing act between having work that is great and turning work around quickly. Linear structures may be straightforward, but they aren’t the best way to create groundbreaking work, and they’re far from fast. Agencies hoping to remain competitive need to reevaluate their workflows. Turning to agile solutions like swarming can help agencies churn out better work faster to keep them in the forefront of the creative world.

Recommended articles