Collaboration : In the Service of a good idea

This week’s guest blog is written by one of BCre8ive’s Creative Champions, Jocelyn Stevenson. A children’s media professional. Jocelyn  has worked for over 40 years in children’s media as a writer, creator, producer and executive producer. Her credits include Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Magic Schoolbus, Bob the Builder, Barney & Friends, Rubbadubbers, Pingu,  and Moshi Monsters: The Movie.

I love collaborating. It’s an on-going exercise in non-attachment because the minute you find yourself getting attached to a particular idea for no reason other than that you like it or you thought of it, you’re no longer collaborating. It’s not about you – but it is about what you can bring to the discussion, and there’s nothing more creatively satisfying than collaborating with people who know how to do it.

 Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 16.36.45Unknown artist

The most successful collaborations come out of a shared agreement to serve the best idea, no matter where it comes from or where it takes you. It’s important to keep asking the question, “Is this the best idea?” but oh how easily the answer can be muddled by politics. If it’s the boss’s idea, then that can become the definition of “best.” And if people don’t feel comfortable challenging the boss, then there is no collaboration. It’s the boss’s job, of course, to put the right people in the room together and then to let them do what they do. But how many bosses are there out there with the creative confidence and generosity – and love of collaboration – who can let go of the reins? As Ed Catmull, one of the world’s greatest managers of creative people, wrote in Creativity, Inc.:

Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. It is easy to say you want talented people, and you do, but the way those people interact with one another is the real key… A good team is made up of people who complement each other. There is an important principle here that may seem obvious, yet- in my experience – is not obvious at all. Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.”

I had the great privilege of working with Jim Henson, another inspiring and successful creative leader. Jim had a gift for putting the right people together, even when the people he was combining could not themselves see the potential of this particular combination. But they saw it when they started working together. I sat in a number of large, creative meetings with Jim at the head of the table. He’d doodle and listen and occasionally comment or guide the discussion to make sure that everyone in the room had a chance to speak. At the end of the day, he’d sum up. He had this incredible ability to synthesize all the ideas that had been floating around into something that made sense. And each of us in that room felt that the final idea was ours. Genius.

The only way to discover something that you never would have thought of on your own is to collaborate – and it’s also secretly comforting to know that whatever the final product, it would not have been the same without your contribution.

This entry was posted in Creative Collaboration. Bookmark the permalink.