Collaboration by definition is “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” It’s pretty straightforward. It’s anything that you make with someone else. But why would someone want to do this? Why not just make everything by yourself, keep all the glory, and reap all the benefits for yourself? This is a valid question, and one that I have discussed at length hundreds of times over the years. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
The reason collaboration is a useful method of creation, is because it keeps things dynamic and it adds to one’s already apparent set of ideas. Each person will have their own views, opinions, preferences, and standards, and that is great, but after a while it could become somewhat limiting or even stale, if a person is prone to repeating concepts, or has relatively stable or consistent ideas. It can potentially generate more of the same essentially. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but just think for a second about how introducing new ideas, new standards, new perspectives, and new preferences could alter all of that.
A sudden infusion of inspiration or resistance from a new source, such as a collaboration partner, can generate waves of new ideas. It can also bring all kinds of feelings to the surface, like elated excitement or deep resentment and ego outbursts…” That’s not what I want to do!! My ideas are better!! But what about what I want?!!”.. These are some of the ugly things that can rear their heads when someone is suddenly faced with accepting the thoughts and contributions of others. Feeding into these thoughts is anti-collaboration by nature. They go against the very idea of co-creation. In order to successfully co-create, the mind and the heart and the ears must be open...more than the mouth and the self-righteous, egomaniacal “ME ME ME” monster.
Remember this: If you agree to collaborate with someone, or with a group, you are agreeing to SHARING. Sharing in the work, sharing in the rewards, sharing in the struggles, all of it. So why would you do this to yourself, you may wonder? The answer: because many hands make for light work, and because no one person can move mountains by themselves, and because humans are community creatures by design. There is immense reward in collaborating if everyone understands that it is a meeting of minds and hands with the intention to make something not solely of one’s own doing, but as something that is inclusive.
There is a team effort or even community effort when it comes to collaboration. The real questions should be: “What do WE want to achieve?”, “What are OUR ideas?”, “What do WE hope to create?” It’s not about “I” or “Me”, for that would be a solo endeavor, thus NOT a collaboration.
Think of some of the greatest collaborators of all time, who comes to mind? Would they have accomplished all that they did if they had operated alone? Here are some that come to my mind:
• John Lennon and Paul McCartney (as well as the rest of the Beatles).
• Lewis And Clark
• The Wright Brothers
• The entire cast of Saturday Night Live - so many collaborations here: Dan Aykroyd and Jon Belushi, Chris Farley and David Spade, Dana Carvey and Mike Meyers, Chevy Chase and Steve Martin, etc
• The Cohen Brothers
• The United Nations (UN) .. and the list goes on.
The saying “two heads are better than one” is a long proven practice that is at the heart of collaboration, be it in art, medicine, politics, parenting, or anything else one can imagine. When combining focus, effort, attention, and even stress, more ground is covered and things that may have slipped through the cracks can be caught before the chance to address them is missed.
It comes down to strengths and weaknesses, and how those can be balanced. A person who is more abstract thinking, might only work with concepts and ideas, while a person that is concrete thinking will work well with putting plans into motion, or doing the groundwork. A person who is more intuitive can follow the natural flow of ideas, where a person that is more fact-based will do the research to validate a course of action. It is truly an endless exchange and interplay, and through such combining and mixing of different qualities, we then get a complete picture. Even though a person can very well accomplish great things on their own, imagine what could be accomplished with literally half of the work to attend to.
Think about how much “half” really is…
If a project would normally take ten hours, a collaboration could give you back five of those hours. What could you use that time for? What other ideas and projects could be pursued?
If a project were to cost $1,000, and it were to be split with a partner, how could that $500 be reallocated. Where could that money go and how could it fuel other endeavors?
Take it to an even different aspect now; creation. If a person has a limited vocabulary, but an immense amount of music knowledge, and they team up with a person who happens to have an extensive vocabulary, but limited musical ability or knowledge, the result would be a strong Lyricist / Composition team. If a person has education in creating blueprints, and their partner is educated in construction, then they can literally build a house or a skyscraper together.
To have all of the information and training to complete a monumental task is totally possible, but at what cost? Time.. money.. Energy.. Even youth. If someone were to insist that they be an expert in their field they are likely to either spend so much time learning that they end up lacking the hands on experience that ties it all together, or they take so long to solidify the experience and the knowledge that they don’t actually create anything till they are sixty years old, and then there really isn’t much time to enjoy said creation fully.
We are a collaborative species. We hunted together in primitive times to survive with our tribes, we build shelters together to house that same tribe, we shared cave walls to paint on while waiting for the winter thaw, we carried stones hundreds of miles to construct temples to the God/desses, and so on. Again, all things that could be accomplished by a sole individual, but consider again the cost, and consider the reward of sharing in the labor. It really all comes down to what you want and what works best to support ambitions. In that primitive village, an individual may likely have died long before having the skills to build a shelter, hunt a bison, cook that bison in a safe way that wouldn’t kill the person upon consuming it, planting crops, gathering water, making clothing, and so on. It is human nature to lean on each other to get the work done, and it is no different when it comes to filming a movie, writing and recording a song, designing a clothing line, launching a business or anything the heart can imagine.
“Two heads are better than one”, this is a true statement. Meditate on it. How could your own projects benefit from having additional support, financing, literal hands-on help, and are you ok sharing that burden as well as the rewards. Too often people are consumed by ego, greed, or a desire to prove themselves, and that is really potentially counterproductive. It all depends on what you want, how you want it, and what you are willing to do to get to the prize.
Give it some thought, and see what it yields. You may be surprised to see that the pros outweigh the cons, the wins outnumber the cons, and the risks less than the potential rewards.
For tips and advice on how to have successful collaborations, see my other blogs on Collaboration.