Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

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.

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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!

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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!

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4 responses to “Is Solo Creativity Really Dead?

  1. Patrick Ross May 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Fantastic summary of the debate and your insights, Lynn. So glad you found my post of value in this important and often lopsided discussion. Here’s to recognizing your own creative path, with whatever degree of collaboration it includes!

  2. Sherry Langland May 19, 2013 at 4:15 am

    An excellent read, Lynn! The education world is also guilty of falling into the ‘all or nothing’ world at times and at a detriment to the students. We need to allow for collaboration and for solo time. As Daniel Pink writes in his book, To Sell is Human, it is the ambiverts who do well, not the introverts or the extroverts.

    • Lynn Patra May 19, 2013 at 4:57 am

      Thank you for visiting and commenting Sherry! Yes, a psychologist friend of mine often remarks how much society is conveniently structured for those in the middle (i.e., those who form the bulk of the distribution curve). It can be much harder for those who are more at the extremes to find their niche, but I think there are appropriate roles (probably not sales though) for even those of us who are extreme extroverts or extreme introverts to play and make their unique contributions to society as well.

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