Collaborations

Live music has a way of infusing the soul.

I’m sitting at my home office today, humming The Boxer, because, last night, two rock legends shared a stage at the San Jose Arena. Both Paul Simon (71) and Sting (62) are exceptional talent unto their own, and could easily have filled the big halls and concerts venues by themselves.

And while I first wondered what it would be like — what happens when you combine two different voices, and even different sense of rhythms. I was deeply moved by the experience. Neighbors had bought tickets but then decided not to go because, as they thought about it, the idea was less-than-appealing. But I wish they had gone. While most of society values and even prizes individual talent and achievement, we don’t often get to see the beauty of difference coming together. And last night was such an experience.

Someone took a home video, here:

The experience reminds me that great work happens when ideas takes shape by contact with other ideas. Not by some assimilation but by the friction of difference. Not by one genius, overtaking another genius. But by exposure to those differences. By respecting difference, by honoring it, and finding ways for each to shine. Quite often it can mean you don’t know what will happen — you don’t know what ideas will be sparked, what challenge will cause you to rethink, what new inspiration might come.

I’m working with Tim Kastelle on a deeper study of the business models that fuel innovation and growth in the social era, and we push each other to complete ideas. In a few weeks, I’m doing a SXSW session with Rachel Sklar on networks. These collaborations push me to new levels. I’m deeply honored to work with these lovely people, and also inspired to “bring it”.

One reason I hear people say they don’t like collaboration is because “sharing ideas” is often thought of as “giving them away”. And while it’s true at some level, I’m more convinced than ever that when you can find someone with which you can create together, then you get more creativity, and  certainly, better results. Perhaps even to build a bigger lever to lift the world. Or, in the case of last night’s art, to lift the soul.

Can you think of someone you’d like to collaborate with? Someone perhaps that “doesn’t make sense” but might very well be magical? Why not put that idea into action. I remember when Tim and I first talked of this idea, and we both marvel at what it’s becoming…

9 Responses:

  1. Steven Chayer. February 19, 2014 at 6:59 am  |  

    Hey Nilofer, please post them singing The boxer! Its one of my favorites too. Bridge over troubled waters is awesome too but, I relate to the pugilistic fight in life and business.

    Reply
    • Nilofer Merchant. February 19, 2014 at 9:37 am  |  

      Hey Steven – I had one hyperlinked song and one embedded song. If you go to the hyperlinked song you will find what you seek. :-)

      Reply
      • Nilofer Merchant. February 20, 2014 at 10:52 am  |  

        Hey looks like I got that wrong. Boxer here:

        Reply
  2. Terri Hoornstra. February 19, 2014 at 8:51 am  |  

    Hi Nilofer – this article is exactly what the developers of the new Common Core Standards for public education are trying to achieve; and it seems too much of a leap for its opponents to conceive of students working together on a solution. By the old standards, that’s still considered “cheating”.

    Reply
    • Nilofer Merchant. February 19, 2014 at 9:36 am  |  

      It takes time for legacy systems to change. That and pressures to continue and it is incredibly clear that this is where the world is going.

      Reply
  3. Rob. February 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm  |  

    Nilofer — Thank you! I really appreciate this insight. It couldn’t come at a better time for me. I’m preparing a talk I will give to one of our customer companies about a technology which fosters collaboration next week. This idea of honoring differences and embracing the inherent friction is fascinating to me. Can you elaborate on examples of “great work” where this principle resulted in some kind of spectacular innovation? Perhaps a life-changing development that everyone can relate to? Thank you and Namaste!

    Reply

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