The pair is the primary creative unit

“The pair is the primary creative unit… At its heart, the creative process itself is about a push and pull between two entities,two cultures or traditions, or two people, or even a single person and the voice inside her head.”

Joshua Wolf Shenk

“The End of Genius” is certainly an eye catching title for an article in last weeks New York Times trailing a new book called Power of Twos.  And it was the paragraph towards the end of the article that really stood out for me which started with the statement “The pair is the primary creative unit…”.

I like that a lot and it rings true to me. And if I’m honest I often prefer to work on my own and yet deep down I know I need other people to achieve the stuff I want to get done. In some ways collaboration becomes a necessary part of the creative or innovation process, but often one that is difficult and not always fun. Nobody really likes to be told their wrong, but that’s often the best help you can give somebody, to disagree and to challenge their thinking.

I heard an event organiser say recently “If we host an event and call it a debate, everybody agrees. But if we host and event and call it a discussion, everybody disagrees”. Well I think perhaps we are just too cordial and need a bit more healthy disagreement. As Margaret Heffernen argues convincingly in her TED Talk below.

As an open innovation agency we are always working with multiple partners and it’s hard to describe how qualitatively and quantitatively different it is to working alone. In summary we would say that by working with others allows us to do and learn more, to be more creative, to act more quickly. In summary collaboration, when it works, enables you to achieve more. However of course it doesn’t always work and in our experience the biggest barrier to successful collaboration is usually ego, so it often helps to adopt certain behaviours to work a bit better together.

“Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but good disagreement is central to progress. The best partners aren’t echo chambers.”

Margaret Heffernen

So maybe the idea of the lone genius is finally dead. Long live the collaborative geniuses instead. Who is the Lennon to your McCartney (or should that be the other way round)? If you don’t have a partner to spar with, why not? What’s stopping you?

After all, without push and pull, there is no progress.

By Roland

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