Culture Design Group
Apr 16, 2008
[This cartoon was commissioned by my client, Microsoft.]
Umm… Nice, but does this one* make sense?
I thought that vast majority of the world’s greatest pieces of art have been created by an individual. When trying to create art/beauty/design, collaboration tends to be counterproductive – leading to that dreadful design-by-committee. For example, I’m quite sure collaborately created cartoons-on-businesscards would look quite boring.
* = vast majority of your doodles are spot on 🙂
Ha!!!! Can’t get much more elemental (seminal?) than that.
I haven’t missed many of your drawings for a couple of years. I like so much this one … cause it touches me on many levels of my life ; both private and public.
So,… thx for your creativity often full of elegance and mysteries.
Just go ask any creationist 😉
Seriously, this is a question that I’ve been wondering about repeatedly over the years: is innovation a lonely or a team action? Companies prefer to think it is a team thing because that implies they can control it: enable collaboration, throw in some innovative process facilitation and tools (SIT, TRIZ, etc) and your employees will create great stuff. Which actually works, many times. But the lone genius model obviously also exists, and is far less predictable.
It is part of our “leader as solitary hero” mythology that great works are the result of a singular genius. A close reading of history suggests otherwise however. Warren Bennis has written extensively about this http://www.pbs.org/newshour/gergen/march97/bennis_3-26.html. It is counterintuitive but I feel it’s true. Jesus did after all need 11 disciples to help him (not counting the one errant one), and Michaelangelo painted the Sistine chapel with 13 other artists.
Having said that, I do agree that committees are lame. But there is a difference between a committee that sits in its high chair and carries on with long meetings, and a group of smart and talented people collectively hammering a problem to submission.
“I thought that vast majority of the world’s greatest pieces of art have been created by an individual.”
Yes they were created by an individual but I’d hardly call them individual inspirations or creations. Ask any artist who influenced them and they’ll give you a list of people they studied and learned from. Ask any inventor and they’ll give a list of people and previous inventions or ideas.
This to me is still collaboration (the act of working together). It may not be face to face but it is definitely people sharing information and learning from it. One person learns something from someone else and then takes it a step further, then the next person learns from the last and takes it a step further. I mean this even happens in face to face collaboration. One person’s comment or idea inspires someone else and voila, an idea is created.
“Collaboration” is not the same as “design-by-committee.”
The great artists of the Renaissance all had studios full of assistants. Moreover, their patrons got detailed proposals before awarding the commission, made many “suggestions,” and often reviewed sketches and models at various milestones.
Read a few unedited manuscripts and you’ll see just how much great writers owe to their editors.
Composers, playwrights, and filmmakers are doomed to obscurity without musicians, actors, and whole hordes of other contributors.
And that’s not even considering less clearly defined “influences,” such as mentors, peers, and the culture at large.
If you think creation is solitary, you need to get out more.
Ok, understood… You do have a point. But let me explain mine better.
> If you think creation is solitary, you need to get out more.
You got me wrong. I don’t think so. Quite the contrary. As my day-job, I’m heading Nokia Beta Labs, the whole purpose of which is to create new applications & services together with a passionate user community of about 100 000 people. Trust me, I know that you can create great stuff as a group effort. And I believe that nowadays it’s the best way to create stuff of any significance. By far.
My point was just that “Without collaboration there is no creation” was an exaggeration, almost to the point of being nonsense. Sometimes there is magnificent creation without collaboration, Hugh’s marvelous cartoons being a case in point…
This particular cartoon was commissioned by Microsoft. That sure sounds like collaboration to me.
For Hugh’s cartoons in general, see my comment about mentors and influences. We could argue about whether those count as “collaborators,” but they certainly argue against the myth of the isolated creator.
Put another way, “Everything is connected”. Individual genius is still influenced by the people and environment it is within. It’s why a lot of creative types like doing their creative thinking outside of the office versus a dark room. The surrounding stimuli often helps propagate ideas better.
Following Tommy’ comment, I cite here a quote from one of J.Steinbeck famous books: “Our species is the only creative species and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaboration, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man”
Houda, John Donne said the exact opposite, and much more succinctly: “No Man is an island.” 😉
Steinbeck’s first wife suggested the title of “The Grapes of Wrath,” and arguably he wrote his greatest works while they were married. He dedicated “East of Eden” to his publisher. His friend Ed Ricketts helped with both research and writing, and was the model for “Doc” in “Cannery Row.” He certainly had an editor when he was a war correspondent for the Herald Tribune, and certainly had collaborators in his work in movies. He worked with photographer Robert Capa on a book about the Soviet Union.
And, of course, his greatest works wouldn’t even exist if he hadn’t lived and worked among the migrant workers on California’s Monterey Coast.