I’ve been working in a variety of ways at the Centre for Creative Collaboration for more than a year now. My trip to America gave me an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned with others in the course of that year. Whenever I told people about the Centre, they were very interested in what we had found about the process of collaborating in a creative context.
On the whole I think people recognise that it’s a valuable but difficult thing to do. But why is it difficult? I think it comes down to some of the conventional wisdom about identity and branding. My repeated experience of working with others in the context of the Centre and before that with Tuttle in general is that most of us find it hard to give up a strong sense of personal identity for something that isn’t well-formed yet.
Now, I have to admit that even when I worked in big organisations I had trouble leaving my ego at the door and making my work about something bigger than just me. However, it’s a lot easier to do that when you have a formal contract with a corporation (at the end of the day, you’ve made an agreement to do what you’re told) than when you and a bunch of folks are sitting round a table trying to come up with something new.
Practice makes perfect, but I always feel like my own progress with this is painfully slow.
There’s so much to let go of – first of all at a personal creative level there’s the fear of making the first mark, of being wrong and of being seen to be wrong. Anyone involved in creating something new is familiar with the difficulty of the blank sheet of paper. However, having others watch me struggle with a blank sheet of paper doesn’t necessarily make it feel any easier. Making this discomfort explicit can help. Just acknowledging out loud and in the group that this is a difficult bit of the process takes away some of the power of the block.
In a Creative Collaboration people might not just be representing their own interests but those of an organisation too. Ideally we want to manage this – to have points in our process where we all let go of the organisational ego and others when it’s acceptable to bring it back in.
The greater struggle for me though is to let go of personal attachment to who I am and what my part is in the group. I have to keep reminding myself that we’re here for some higher purpose, even if that purpose isn’t well-defined – indeed we might just be here to define a purpose… We’re certainly not here to admire Lloyd and wonder at his wisdom (there’ll be plenty of time for that later…)
So part of working together is acknowledging that working together can be difficult and pulling ourselves back again and again to remembering that (at least for this meeting or piece of work) the group is the most important unit and that personal and organisational attachments may need to be temporarily jettisoned.
Because the truth is that we are simultaneously individuals and part of a group but for some reason our brains struggle with holding that idea for very long – we yearn to be one or the other.