WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Good Collaborators

You don't know until you do it. 

You quickly find out who is a good collaborator and who isn't.  I don't think there's a rule book.  Some people just have the skills, and some don't.  Maybe it's something you can learn, but I think the only way you learn is by doing it, and if you are really unsuited to collaboration it becomes pretty clear, pretty fast.  And then your opportunities to collaborate dwindle.  So you don't get the experience, and don't learn how to do it, because you piss people off.

Maybe it's fundamentally a "personality" thing.

I recently came across a real lousy collaborator.  A talented person, great voice, funny, enthusiastic.  I reached out to them, brought them into our circle.  Very quickly found out that this person really was only concerned with themselves and with their performance.  This person kind of quietly ran rough-shod over the other players, and in small ways made the other singers and players uncomfortable.

Instead of creating great group cohesion, suddenly people were feeling insecure and inadequate.  This person was kind of the ultimate "anti-collaborator."  I could see things starting to fall apart.  I sort of stepped in and tried to lay down some markers and boundaries to keep it all moving forward.

There's a delicate balance between shooting for some kind of "perfection" and working with the tools and the people at hand.  I think there's an "art" in working with limits. If you work the group energy wisely you can bring out the best in everyone; accentuate their strengths, and play down the weaknesses.  And sometimes you can even make a weakness a strength.

That's not to say the you have to be a good collaborator to do good work.  There are lots of examples of people who are relentless perfectionists who are really difficult to work with and who have done amazingly good work.  

Collaboration is it's own unique thing.  And my goal usually is to get the best from everyone without steam-rolling them.  I like to get a group of performers together and to create a sense of play.  And see where it takes us.

When you find someone who just doesn't get it, well, you just don't invite them back into the circle.  Or you blow the circle up and try again.

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