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The Power of Collaboration

We visited the Auguste Rodin special exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts yesterday. We learned something interesting that caught my attention: at lot of Rodin’s work as a sculptor was done collaboratively by “the school” of Rodin. In other words, while Rodin was the creative genius behind the design of his works, there were dozens of people involved in actually creating the sculptures.

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Rodin’s most iconic piece is The Thinker. This is a plaster cast in the traveling exhibit. When looking at it, you realize the man is not only thinking with his mind, but with his whole being – mind, body, and spirit.

The same can be said of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass works. There were scores of people behind these individuals who brought their creations to fruition. Modern Western culture usually celebrates the triumph of the individual, but there is so much more to be gained from appreciating the collective work of many.

While we give credit to Rodin, Wright, and Tiffany, it is important to understand that without the help of their “schools” of artists, they simply would not have been able to produce as much art as they all did in their lifetimes.

I am a person who likes to do things on my own, but when I stop and realize that the result can be exponentially better when I collaborate with other people, I am reminded that two (or a thousand) heads really are better than one. It takes humility. It takes patience. It takes time. But fly over any city in an airplane and ask yourself, “could that have been built by one person?”

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I just read a great book on this for my PhD class called Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation by Linda A. Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback. Check it out and enjoy the journey of creative collaboration!

Below is Linda A. Hill’s superb TED talk:

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