Achieving Your Creative Potential Depends On It.
I am passionate about collaboration. Truly geeky and obsessive about it. There are not many things that I would stand tall and call myself an expert on but "Collaboration" is certainly amongst the few. Throughout my career I have worked in various teams ranging in size from 2 to 100,000. I have worked remotely, internationally and on a fixed site. I have led, consulted and coached all manner of people in all sorts of different roles and situations. No matter what the team, who, where or when the bottom line has always been this - collaboration is pivotal to success.
And it is amazing, considering how important it is to success in the arts, sciences... hell... to life in general, that so few people actually know what collaboration truly is and why it is so beneficial.
So, allow me to start with a definition, and unusually, the clarification of what collaboration is not....
Collaboration is NOT a fancy word for Co-operation.
Co-operation is transactional. Doing what is asked of you. A factory production line is a great example of excellent co-operation. Common effort exchanged to make a product. Essentially, if time was of no consequence each action could be done by the same person. They would simply move along the line of production.
Collaboration is an invested and skilful action. It involves awareness of your own capabilities and of those around you. When you collaborate you are amplifying the people and resources around you. Entrepreneurs collaborate. Innovators collaborate.
Collaboration creates more than the sum of its parts. This is why it is so valuable.
Let's check out a Case Study to illustrate the difference Collaboration can make.
Rewinding to 1986...
Back in 1986 the General Public thought that state of the art graphics looked something like this...
This is Actual Gameplay for The Legend of Zelda. Chart topping video game of 1986
This one is a snapshot of the gameplay for Miracle World from Sega again, released 1986.
In 1986, the visual powerhouse that is Disney, were still hand cranking their cartoons - this was their latest release.
Then in the same year PIXAR produced this...
They were leagues ahead of all graphics based businesses and they attribute this unbelievable success to the simple fact that they were better collaborators.
If you want verification of this check out the former Dean of Pixar University - Randy Nelson - attributing the success of Pixar to collaboration. The speech was filmed in 2010 as part of a series for Public Education. For anyone in a creative or entrepreneurial role his advice is priceless. I urge you to watch the full clip: click here.
What does this mean for Vocal Writers?
Vocal is NOT a collaborative. Not yet anyway... I live in hope. Vocal is a co-operative. It is a creative, longform writing platform which I and many others love for what it is. Like I would love my employer if I worked in a factory clocking in and out. It serves a purpose. We, the creators, the parts in the machine, essentially operate in silo. On a production line.
When we sit at our screens tapping on our keypads onto Vocal's blank white canvas screens, we are alone in the world. Vocal gathers in all our work, tags, and bags it into tidy community classifications and there it sits unless it is lucky enough to be a top story or a challenge winner. Rare stuff. Glorious and aspirational, but rare. Like winning the monthly raffle in a factory, without any of the personality a cheering Boss may bring to the occasion. We can feel lonely functioning as a cog inside this co-operative.
Creative people - WRITERS - typically like to work alone. Many of us are introverts who enjoy connecting with our thoughts in a tangible way in what is often a cathartic experience.
However, we run the risk of missing out if we always work in silo.
This is something that, given my geeky collaborative obsession, I dwell on a lot. When I first started on Vocal I joined as many Vocal Facebook groups as possible and I will be honest - I did it for readership. I read yours, you read mine exchanges. Good, old fashioned, cooperation. A few comments by well-wishers, which were lovely and sincere, but that was it.
Then I noticed a more conversational element building up between some key leading people. Most notable being the Late Tom Bradbury. Conversations examining the merits of challenge winning stories. What was it that had made it so great? Who was making these judgement calls? What were they really looking for? Was there some conspiracy spinning in the background? Were we all just being farmed through an algorithm?
This was when the limitations of Vocal's Co-operative Model really struck home. What I was seeing was the same behaviour patterns that I have seen in countless other situations.
These were the behaviours of disenfranchised production line employees.
You go to any factory or production facility in the world and you will find the same behaviours because people need meaning in their lives for their own well-being and we Vocal writers more so than any other... we are an invested bunch. We are not gluing soles on shoes or sewing buttons on aprons we are pouring our hearts out and setting them sail into the world through Vocal. It is very hard, psychologically, to accept the diminished return on that emotional investment.
Being who I am, with the background that I had, I felt an enormous call to arms to, in some way, correct this injustice. I found myself, through conversations and networks amidst an equally motivated team of creators who felt similarly compelled. The Vocal Social Society was born and with it the Fab 5 with the singular mission of creating more recognition that what Vocal was offering. We made our winner's posts personal with robust and heartfelt rationales. It may only have been a small gesture but we were creating meaning and we were filling the void in some small way.
Then came the Vocal Creators Chronicle. This was the brainchild of Lesley Anne who had always wanted to run a newspaper or magazine. It took me seconds to decide I was going in with her. I am a working mother with an intensely demanding job but this mattered so much that I knew I had to support it. The Vocal Creators Chronicle offered the Vocal Creative community another platform to gain meaningful recognition through showcases, features and now society pages because recognising all the hard work that goes on across all the Facebook groups is MASSIVELY important because in these groups there are hundreds of people cheerleading and supporting every minute of every day. Filling that Vocal void. It has been worth the hours of time and sacrificing my own writing and challenge entries to get this all done. It is a true labour of love and a worthwhile cause.
Collaboration, Creativity and Writing Success
Moving the sliding scale from a transactional and co-operative relationship to a collaborative and meaningful relationship is far better for all our emotional well-being and in turn our longevity as Vocal writers but the benefits do not end there.
I believe that we are all capable of genius. I also know, categorically, that genius rarely, if ever, happens in silo.
No, I am not speculating or assuming - that is not my style. I am a data based and driven kind of a woman. A great book to read if you want some science and data is a book called "Bounce; How Champions are Made" by Matthew Syed (2010).
For now, as this is only an article and not a research paper, let us take a look at successful writers to illustrate collaboration in action.
Think of any well known, blockbuster author. Any of them...go obscure if you like...Whoever comes to mind insert their name here ➡➡➡
Now, let's tick off this list...
✅ They have a team of editors to review everything from content to grammar.
✅ They have a marketing team that know how to showcase their work.
✅ They have a list in the back of the book thanking all the people who have helped them write the book. From their supportive spouse through to their friends that got them through that really tough bit in chapter xxxx. (You know the lists I mean - the acknowledgements).
✅They attend book festivals and events organised by teams of people, specifically focused on attracting readers to their stories.
✅They have a well-networked publishing house that can print and/or distribute their book swiftly.
See what I mean? And I haven't even started on more nuanced levels of collaboration like those inherent to privilege, education systems, old boy networks...
The better the network of collaborators the better the book will be AND the more sales the book will attract. FACT.
This is what collaboration does. It AMPLIFIES everything. We become better, feel better and are better people because of it. We create value and meaning, relationships and purpose.
There is no lose with collaboration - only WINS.
I look over the events over the last few months and most recently the death of one of the greatest collaborators I have known and I am reminded of a Maya Angelou quote that Tom Bradbury embodied so well.
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
To all the wonderful Vocal Creatives who make life as a Vocal creator that little bit more meaningful every day. I salute you. Please know that you are worth your weight in gold to me and many, many others.
VCC - Here for all of you.