“You can't SEO the human soul.” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
January 19, 2012

The Cult Of Collaboration

Susan Cain is the author of an upcoming book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She recently penned an excellent NYT op-ed piece entitled The Rise Of The New Groupthink. I’d encourage you to take a read of the article as it covers a lot of important ground […]

Susan Cain is the author of an upcoming book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She recently penned an excellent NYT op-ed piece entitled The Rise Of The New Groupthink. I’d encourage you to take a read of the article as it covers a lot of important ground on creativity, innovation, education and work practices. In particular one paragraph stood out for me,

“Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.”

As part of the redesign of this site, I’m going to be changing the categories I use to file my work. My hope is that the new structure will make it easier for readers to dive into older articles.

Working on that has meant reading through old posts. So often, when I’ve written about creativity and creative work, the themes in that quote have come through – the value of privacy and freedom from interruption, the importance of sharing and promoting ideas while maintaining individual integrity and my own (very strong) tendency not to be a “joiner.”

Cain’s point is not that collaboration is a bad idea; on the contrary we often need to collaborate in order to solve really big problems. And, as humans, we also need to work alongside other people to satisfy more basic emotional desires for community and belonging.

But, the hard slog of creating, innovating and thinking is something we largely do alone.

That’s something I totally agree with. And, it worries me that in many parts of society, including schools, we are not encouraging people to develop the skills required to work alone, for extended periods of time, on complex problems.

In fact, I do believe there is something like a cult of collaboration, especially in tech and startup circles; the notion that no good idea can come from one person alone.

It’s important not to get sucked into this. We do need other people in order to amplify our ideas at some point. But, if you are a creative person, an artist, musician, photographer or writer, you do not have to wait for a collaborator to show up before you start work on a project, or strive to perfect your craft.

You can just go for it. Moreover, you can go a long, long way alone. In fact, if you can go it alone, you’ll have far more to offer your collaborators when you finally start working with them.

Responses
Jeff Shattuck 7 years ago

I so agree with this. Almost every good song idea I’ve ever had has come to me when I’m alone.

I will say this, though. In advertising, my day job, the group dynamic can be great, so long as the group is small. Big groups equal big disasters, mostly.

    Fernando Gros 7 years ago

    Jeff – I agree, for some tasks group-work is the way to go.

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