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2012-06-08 19.46.45For a while now, I have been trying to start work on a project with a couple of my friends. Unfortunately, the project has failed to take-off till now, even though we have had many discussions about how to start and when to start.

So, naturally, the topic that came up for discussion when we met recently was:

Is it possible to be just as creative as a team, as you are as an individual?

While, I am no expert on the subject, I feel that there are certain aspects of a team and of creativity that don’t go well together.

A team requires a leader to function effectively, and usually the characteristics of a creative person are different from that of a leader. So, if you have a group of creative people, it can be difficult to find someone who is willing to be lead. A leader has to be willing and able to lead effectively, but while most creative people may have the ability, they usually are not willing to.

Creative people are eccentric. I am definitely not making this up to justify my OCD. An article on the Scientific American states the following as an example of the eccentricity of creative people:

“Albert Einstein picked up cigarette butts off the street to get tobacco for his pipe; Howard Hughes spent entire days on a chair in the middle of the supposedly germ-free zone of his Beverly Hills Hotel suite; the composer Robert Schumann believed that his musical compositions were dictated to him by Beethoven and other deceased luminaries from their tombs; and Charles Dickens is said to have fended off imaginary urchins with his umbrella as he walked the streets of London. More recently, we have seen Michael Jackson’s preoccupation with rhinoplasty, Salvador Dalí’s affection for dangerous pets and the Icelandic singer Björk dressed for the Oscars as a swan.”

It would not be too far fetched to say, then, that it would be difficult for creative people, who are basically eccentrics, to work as a team.

Creative people are usually shy about their work. It is for a reason that it is said that writing a novel, or creating a musical masterpiece, is like giving birth to a baby. Before sharing her work, or her idea, with others a creative individual would like to ensure that the work, or the idea, is perfect. This search for perfection, more often than not, results in the idea not being shared with the others at all. That is definitely not good for team work.

Teams by nature promote groupthink, a phenomenon where members of a group tend to agree with each other simply to avoid conflict and not because the eventual decision makes sense. This is definitely not good for the creative process, and is also not good for the creative individuals forming the group.

Creativity is unstructured, while Teamwork is organized. Creativity thrives on breaking the rules, and on making one’s own rules. Teamwork, by definition, is just the opposite. A team works best when the rules are known to each member of the team, and each member respects them and acts according to them. Thus, once again, teamwork and creativity fail to be the best of friends.

Inspite of the above, it is not impossible for teams to be creative – it is just difficult.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

(Image Courtesy: Geri-Jean from sxc.hu)

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