Collaboration seems to be the go-to word of the moment. You hear about businesses rearranging work spaces (some even constructing new buildings altogether) to create environments where partnerships are more likely to occur. However, I see excessive collaboration as a double-edged sword. Not all collaboration is created equally, and there is a certain magic in working alone for a set amount of time to fully realize and harness your ideas.
I agree that working together can be both mentally and creatively stimulating. Creative blocks often occur when I get stuck in the same rotation of stale ideas and routines for too long. But I notice that sometimes we don’t give each other enough breathing room to come up with and execute our personal ideas and projects. Instead, folks frequently come together and throw out the first thought that comes to mind.
Let's be honest
As a designer one of the concepts we live by is that your first idea is never the best one...
So, of course, I had to brainstorm and come up with a few guidelines for what my ultimate collaboration would look like, and I here's what I came up with.
- Work alongside creatives who have a similar drive and work ethic as you do. I think this point here is self-explanatory to anyone who has ever worked on a project with that one guy who is a chronic procrastinator/slacker.
- Take time to develop your ideas alone. Once you’ve had time to think things through, then come together with your group and share your best thoughts. Imagine how AWESOME the outcome would be if the starting point was ‘good’ instead of shitty ideas.
- Collaborate with people who have a different set of interests or field of expertise than you do. It's amazing how everyone's passion intersects in some way... your challenge is to find out how. And a hidden perk? You'll learn something in the process.
- Try to avoid working with the intention of making money or attaining some extrinsic goal (think fame, followers, recognition). Creativity thrives when you’re intrinsically motivated. Setting your goal as something external will constrain your imagination, and I don't believe for a second that’s the playground for original thought. When I collaborate (and create in general) my goal is to make something useful (or beautiful) that doesn’t exist yet. It’s the thrill of uncovering that ‘thing’ and digging it out of the void that excites me most.
- Collaborate with folks who have more to offer than just ‘a good idea’. Let’s face it we all have good ideas. But who wants to be the only person doing the work when you could come up with a (possibly better) idea on your own? Don't get me wrong, each person’s forte doesn’t have to be artistic - maybe they can offer logistical help. Either way, there should be a tradeoff of expertise. Otherwise, how can you call that collaboration at all?
- And finally, collaborate with individuals who are outside of your social circle, even those you find difficult. Not only will it expand the breadth of your work, but it will also build character ... and patience ;-)
note: this is the first of a 3 part series on collaboration.