10 cheers of solitude – the limitations of collaboration?

Assuming you have read the blog below, here are some further thoughts on why sometimes it’s great just to be left alone, in your own space, to think or do what you want or need to do.

Somewhere along the line we seem to have devalued working alone, entirely in synch with overplaying the benefits of being together.

Here are ten reasons why “collaboration” – or even co-ordination and co-operation – are not always what they are hyped to be:

  1. It is okay to have times where you just can’t think of a reason to collaborate with anyone. You can’t spend your whole life collaborating – sometimes you have to do important or useful stuff. On your own.
  2. You just cannot force collaboration. You cannot set a meeting and say “at this time we shall collaborate”. You can plan co-ordination and co-operation. Collaboration, however, invariably has to be spontaneous, inspired and unpredictable to be beneficial. So if anyone sets up a collaboration session with you – remember to take something productive to do until it’s finished.
  3. Collaborating can be a waste of time. The modern assumption seems to be that collaboration is always beneficial and productive. This is of course a fairytale. Sometimes the results are garbage. It’s okay to admit this. Really, it is.
  4. It is often assumed that the more people there are around the table, the more (and better) ideas will be generated. Collaboration can lead to a narrowing of options or views, a collective funnelling process. This is called the Asch Paradigm. There is lots of material about it out there. We could get together and talk about it.
  5. Most of the world’s great inventions or game-changing ideas have emerged from lone mavericks, not collectives. Thereafter it has taken others to being them into being, but the spark of genius has usually been a solo inspiration. In some instances the collective mass has worked tirelessly together to debunk the ideas of such mavericks – such as in the case of John Harrison and the marine chronometer.
  6. We do not always come to collaboration as equals. Some may be intelligent, inspired or inspiring – while others can be slow or even paralyse the group. We are all capable of being either, or somewhere on the continuum. Sometimes the people you collaborate with just don’t want to do what you want them to do, or are just on a different wavelength. A group that is too lopsided just goes around in circles. Sometimes quite happily, too.
  7. Collaboration can lead to compromise. In difficult situations it is a natural human tendency. That’s only fine if the intention of the gathering is compromise, and you state this at the outset.
  8. Trust is vital, but not always prevalent. Collaboratively sharing ideas can be great – until someone takes one of your inspired ideas, calls it their own (because you didn’t protect it) and make a lot of money or career headway from it.
  9. When collaboration produces commercially successful results for the group, it can lead to difficult discussions over matters such as royalties and patents. Trust has a habit of dissolving when cash is concerned. Just ask most defunct rock bands who “co-wrote” their material.
  10. A committee is still a camel created by a horse. Well – actually it’s a horse created by a camel committee. Or something. We held a groupthink, and made an antelope.

It will come as no surprise that I wrote this just to be provocative.

On my own.

And I didn’t show it to anyone before I posted it.

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