Need Ideas?  Find a “John Lennon”

By Shlomo Maital

Lennon McCartney

    Joshua Wolf Shenk has written a wonderful book titled Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs.     An excerpt is available from the Atlantic Monthly, June 25, 2014 issue.  His point is simple:   Very often,  when two (different) people work together on an idea, the result is far better than when only one works on it.

    I personally experienced this in working with my co-author Arie Ruttenberg on our book Cracking the Creativity Code (SAGE India 2014).   I’m convinced the final product was many times better than if either of us had worked in isolation.

     Shenk goes into detail in discussing the collaboration of Lennon and McCartney These two Beatles created some 180 songs!   Most of them are wonderful, most were recorded by the Beatles.

    Here is what Shenk observes about creative pairs:

     For centuries, the myth of the lone genius has towered over us, its shadow obscuring the way creative work really gets done. The attempts to pick apart the Lennon-McCartney partnership reveal just how misleading that myth can be, because John and Paul were so obviously more creative as a pair than as individuals, even if at times they appeared to work in opposition to each other. The lone-genius myth prevents us from grappling with a series of paradoxes about creative pairs: that distance doesn’t impede intimacy, and is often a crucial ingredient of it; that competition and collaboration are often entwined. Only when we explore this terrain can we grasp how such pairs as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy all managed to do such creative work. The essence of their achievements, it turns out, was relational. If that seems far-fetched, it’s because our cultural obsession with the individual has obscured the power of the creative pair.

   My main ‘take home’ or ‘take away’ from this book?   Find someone to work with. If possible, don’t look for someone just like you.   Find someone DIFFERENT from you, like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, or Lennon and McCartney.