The Power of Collaboration — A Note to Management

Success occurs in clusters.

— Julia Cameron | The Artist’s Way

Watching Daft Punk win at the Grammys last night made me think of the power of collaboration and its ability to unleash creativity. Artists are known collaborators.

Think about it for just a second: what did the Impressionist paint? Lunch…with each other. What did the Bloomsbury Group write about? Dining out with — and gossiping about — each other. Who did John Cassavetes make films with? His friends. Why? Because they believed in each other and enjoyed helping each other achieve their dreams.

— Julia Cameron | The Artist’s Way

Even people who you would think would be born rivals collaborate.

I will give you a case in point. Film director Martin Scorsese developed, shaped, and fine-tuned the script for Schindler’s List — then gave the project to his friend Steven Spielberg, feeling the material should be his. This unballyhooed act of generosity finally gave Spielberg his shot at an Oscar as a “real director” — even though Scorsese knew that it might cost him his shot, at least this year.

— Julia Cameron | The Artist’s Way

I know first hand that artists like to help each other. My creative friends where there for me when I was plotting the two graded readers I wrote. In the end, they not only helped be hash out the story, they helped me create something that was much better than it would have been if I had written it on my own.

Artists often help each other. We always have… The truth is that when we do, powerful things happen.

— Julia Cameron | The Artist’s Way

And then, as I was watching Daft Punk,  I started wondering, “What makes artists so different from people who work in organizations?” One answer I came up with is — who’s at the top.

Artists run themselves. People who work in organizations are run by the organization and if the organization doesn’t set a tone that breeds collaboration, it won’t happen.

Through their structures and incentives, organizations may, however, unwittingly compound the reluctance to provide or seek help.

IDEO’s Culture of Helping | The Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2014

The usual suspects get it and relay it through their philosophies as well as the physical design of their offices (which encourage collaboration). As a result, these are the ones that we laud as being innovators.

But there are others that talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. They may have adopted the office design. They may want to be innovators in their respective field, but when management shoots down collaboration, it won’t happen. Instead you get:

  • meetings in which people don’t talk (and management wondering why no one talks);
  • an organization that doesn’t reach its potential, and;
  • talent drain (or people who came in with ideas and energy shutting down and management wondering, “What happened to so and so?).

Research across many kinds of companies finds that those with higher rates of helping have lower employee turnover, enjoy greater customer satisfaction, and are more profitable.

— IDEO’s Culture of Helping | The Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2014

If this isn’t true of your company today, and you want it to be, then you need to adjust your company’s culture so that your employees can truly engage in collaboration.

For some ideas on how you can get your company there read:

IDEO’s Culture of Helping (Harvard Business Review): You have to register or purchase the article to read all of it online.