A though-provoking essay by Joshua Wolf Shenk about the nature of creativity and collaboration, and the myth of the individual creator. From Slate:
What makes creative relationships work? How do two people—who may be perfectly capable and talented on their own—explode into innovation, discovery, and brilliance when working together? These may seem to be obvious questions. Collaboration yields so much of what is novel, useful, and beautiful that it’s natural to try to understand it. Yet looking at achievement through relationships is a new, and even radical, idea. For hundreds of years, science and culture have focused on the self. We talk of self-expression, self-realization. Popular culture celebrates the hero. Schools test intelligence and learning through solo exams. Biographies shape our view of history.
The shift in understanding creativity is well underway. The stereotypes of miraculous breakthrough moments—and the incessant drive to locate them in the head of epic individuals—are slowly yielding to a portrait of complex, meandering, inherently social paths toward innovation. Notable pioneers of this thinking include the psychologists Keith Sawyer and Vera John-Steiner and the popular writers Steven Johnson, author of the forthcoming Where Good Ideas Come From and my brother, David Shenk (it’s true, not just sibling love), with The Genius in All of Us.