On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy
Is Solo Creativity Really Dead?
Everywhere I look, various experts are heralding the benefits of group work over solo, independent work. Insisting on working alone is selfish they say. Collaboration fosters more creativity than solo work they say. It’s one thing to be describing the work style that brings out the best for the bulk of the “bell curve,” however if there’s one valuable lesson to learn from decades of studying psychology it’s that, when it comes to people, it’s impossible to generalize about a great, many things. Still worse is to subject the people who don’t fit to the “tyranny of the majority.”
So here I am working alone, independently on my blog and other creative writing, art, and musical side projects. I’m blissfully happy. Life seems great. Everything seems alright with the world. And yes, any creative inspiration that has struck me may owe its existence to the synergy of ideas I’ve gained in past encounters with people, films I’ve watched, and books I’ve read. However, I am producing my work now alone, on my own and it feels great. So the last thing I wish to witness is a mass movement that pushes one style of working (group work) over another (solo work).
Those of you who know what it’s like to be a “misfit” in one way or another, I think, can appreciate how statements about working “this way” or “that way” is better for everyone are ill-thought out. To maximize productivity and creativity across a whole society, it would be ideal to maximize freedom for everyone to work in the way that suits each person best. If you are most productive and creative while working in a more collaborative manner… great! If someone else is most productive and creative while working alone… great! Different strokes for different folks. The Industrial Age is characterized by standardized, one-size-fits-all work policies. Here’s hoping that the push towards group work with the simultaneous denouncement of solo work goes the way of the Industrial Age as well.
To my relief, I’m not alone in my leaning towards working alone. In this post, Patrick Ross makes a powerful argument about not making this an either-or situation. While celebrating the ways in which today’s digital tools foster collaboration, it’s not necessary or even desirable to denounce solo, independent work. As it turns out, many writers and artists would agree.
- Should Collaboration be King? (sherrylangland.com)
By the way, if you are interested in optimizing collaboration, the next Better Collaboration online Meetup, takes place on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2:30-4:00 pm EST (11:30-1:00 pm PST): Innovating the way dispersed teams collaborate!
Featured speaker in this event will be Paul Brody, CEO and Co-Founder of Sococo. Sococo is an innovative tool for fostering impromptu collaboration without having to physically be at the same place. Everyone can see who is around and, with one click, can immediately start a conversation or meeting (voice, video, chat, multiple screen shares).
These educational video conference series are geared towards organizational leaders wishing to learn more about improving collaboration and productivity through the use of online tools. Visit the Better Collaboration website or register here at on the Better Collaboration meetup page!
Consider yourself lucky you’re not my wife. Every morning she is forced to endure a rant from me about something I’ve read in that day’s Washington Post. Sundays provide multiple opportunities for fist-shaking, but one editorial this past Sunday hit a nerve: the topic was creativity.
The headline said it all: “The end of lone-wolf capitalism.” For years now digital utopians have first insisted that we all believe in a myth that creativity and innovation comes from solitary thinkers; then they knock down their straw man by pointing to the power of collaboration. Citing the Firefox browser (volunteers maintain and upgrade it) and Facebook (the content comes from us, not Mark Zuckerberg), Neal Gabler wrote this: “In our global, networked economy, the lone wolf is rapidly becoming an anachronism, one that threatens to impede innovation rather than fostering it.”
Perhaps I’m sensitive to the suggestion that…
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