Last week I talked about what makes a collaboration successful. This week I want to talk about something equally important: What’s in it for you?
Sounds hard, why bother?
Collaboration can be a pain. It requires you to rely on somebody else; to listen to their ideas, to support them and be supported. So why bother at all? Surely it’s easier just to rely on your own innate talent?
1. You’ll get more done
This first one isn’t rocket science. You only have a fixed amount of time and energy to devote to a project. Bringing someone else into it will double the amount of time and energy being spent on it. True, not all of this will result in increased output (some of that time and energy has to be spent communicating with each other for a start), but if you’re not cranking more out as a team then there’s something really wrong.
Note: This isn’t a linear rule. You can’t establish a team of 50 people and expect to get 50x the output. In fact, I’d suggest that for smaller collaborations there’s an exponential dropoff in the output increase you get from bringing each additional person. So whilst you might get 75% more for your first partner, the next one will add 50%, the next 40% and so forth. Soon you’re spending more time supporting the collaboration than you are producing anything. That’s why partnerships and small teams are so popular.
2. You won’t always have the best ideas
I know this is hard to swallow, but although I’m sure you’re a creative genius you can’t be brilliant all the time. Even Mozart had off days now and then – but just imagine if he’d had Beethoven beside him to cheer him on…
It’s impossible to be creative all the time, but with a collaboration it’s more likely that someone will be in a creative groove when the other is in a bit of a funk. Sometimes all you need to pull you out of that funk is to listen to the ideas of someone whose creative ideas are still in full swing. Either way, creativity increases through collaboration and ideas sharing.
3. You’re not Superman
There’s going to come a point where you’re ill. Or really busy. Or drunk. Or one of a hundred other reasons that you can’t devote your usual energies to the project. That’s where the partner (or partners) step in and pick up the heavy lifting.
This doesn’t work if you’re constantly dropping the ball, but having someone who has your back is an incredible thing. On recent occasions Bojan and I have both had moments where we’ve not been able to meet our commitment, and the question from the other has always been the same:
What can I do to deliver this for you?
4. It’s good to talk
Whether you’re a mind-mapper, a sketchnoter or a list-maker it’s tough to get through brainstorming sessions on your own. That aspect of reflection, of challenge, of “bouncing ideas off someone” is incredibly difficult to achieve on your own.
Having a partner or team gives you a ready-made group to test, shape and develop your ideas. You’ll find that the concepts you’re working on, the sub-projects you’re developing, grow stronger and more feasible through the feedback and suggestions from your partners.
5. You can’t be good at everything
English isn’t Bojan’s first language. I’m crap at titles. There are moments for us both where one of us can can cast a critical eye over the other’s work and improve it using our personal strengths.
A lot of the time I’ll look at Bojan’s articles and make no changes; But on the odd occasion a minor tweak from me will make a key point much more effective. It’s the same the other way round; Bojan will challenge the points I’ve made or how I’ve structured my article and when he’s done, the content is far the better for his input.
6. It’s fun
Not everybody likes being a lone wolf. If you’re the sort of person who starts talking to yourself when you’ve been alone in the house all day, you’ll understand that it can be invaluable to have someone to interact with, even if it is via email or Direct Message.
A lot of what Bojan and I work through together – an AWFUL lot – isn’t really project-related at all. We’re checking in with each other, talking about life stuff and just helping each other out with what’s going on in our lives.
A collaboration is effectively a friendship forged from a common purpose – so enjoy it for that aspect, and get the other benefits for free.
I’m convinced, how do I do it?
Now that I’ve talked about what makes a successful collaboration, and what it can give you, I’m going to move onto the practicalities of collaborating with someone across a distance (The Atlantic, in mine and Bojan’s case).
Stay tuned next week!