A Lesson In Collaboration

"Molly," my Carvin CT3M in all mahogany
"Molly," my Carvin CT3M in all mahogany

I recently spent an evening with two friends, working on a soundtrack for a DVD. My friend Ed Corr’s company, OPX, is creating a video presentation about what the office of the future might look like, if you ask the twenty-somethings who are going to have to work in them and design them. To its great credit, OPX did not want to just slap some royalty-free ambient noises on the presentation, nor were they comfortable pirating commercial music. So Ed asked me and Mike Shawn to help out. (Mike and I are band mates in The West End; Ed is a member of the band City Farm.)

I did not realize it at the time, but I would gain a number of insights into collaboration from that evening. A couple of days after our session, Ed dropped off a thank you card. On it was a Xeroxed passage from a book (which turned out to be Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo):

When your collaborator has a strong vision of where to go and you do not, follow the vision.

When you have a strong vision of where to go and your collaborators do not, invite them along and help them see it.

If no one in the project has a strong vision of where to go, develop a common vision before you start working, or at a minimum find one before you finish. A project with no vision yields mediocre results at best, and usually wastes everyone’s time.

Terrific advice to keep in mind the next time your organization collaborates with another. There’s got to be a vision that controls things. It does not have to be a consensus (one party may dominate). But all must submit to it.

Here is a sample of what we (performing as “West Farm”) recorded:

[wpaudio url=”http://blog.bradrourke.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/02-Cubicle.mp3″ text=”West Farm – ‘Cubicle'”]


(Personnel: Ed Corr, acoustic guitar; Brad Rourke, electric guitar; Mike Shawn, keyboards; engineered by Brad Rourke)

Published by

Brad Rourke

Executive editor of issue guides and program officer at the Kettering Foundation.

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