(in Portland at 5513 NE 30th Ave.) is a gathering place where
artistic types connect with each other.
than the sum of the partners
artist's diary, part 2
This is the second part of Carolyn Campbell's
series on co-creating. Part
1 appeared last month.
years I've thought I was avoiding creating with others. I didn't
like all the chatter and the lack of follow-through. It was tedious,
frustrating and time consuming.
It wasn't until last year when a colleague said: "Carolyn,
you're constantly co-creating. Everything you do is done with other
people. It's what you do best."
Well. That made me take pause and reframe my perspective
on what I was doing. I realized it's true. I love to co-create.
What I avoid are vague, non-congruent processes of cooperating and
With this is mind, I started watching partnerships that involve
a creative venture. I've become fascinated at the number that stumble
and crumble. After the fifth co-creation in as many weeks, I decided
to look at common themes that occur.
| The CoreSource's
home-like setting includes a business coach, a massage therapist
and other facilitators who offer workshops on personal and professional
As I looked closer I noticed a few key factors that impacted whether
a co-creation succeeded or failed. One of the most common mistakes
I noticed is people trying to cooperate. Cooperation is so ingrained
We are scolded for not cooperating as children, coaxed into cooperating
in school and paid for cooperating as employees.
So what's wrong with cooperating? In most cases, it means someone
bends to another's will, or pretends that they do usually
because they want to avoid conflict or tension ... or just don't
know what else to do. This is the antithesis to co-creation
Recently, I worked with a group of people who produced a big show.
In the public's eye, the show was a grand success. And yet, almost
no one wanted to ever do it again.
Although each participant thought they were working on a common
idea, they weren't.
They were simply cooperating with what they thought needed to happen
to keep the show from falling apart. Many wanted to quit. They were
all trying to appease the director. They didn't want to get her
upset. No one dared to say stop. That would have been uncooperative.
By the day of the show, everyone was consumed with anxiety, barely
able to make it through the show.
As we deconstructed it later, we talked about what might have been
different. Everyone agreed they wished they had trusted their gut.
They were seduced by the opportunity to be a part of the show. They
didn't stop and say: Is this right for me? Is this in line with
the bigger picture of my work? Is this something I really believe
in? If not, you may very well end up cooperating and feeling that
your vision was not honored.
This summer, as I built a new center for the CoreSource, I experienced
this process firsthand. My first partnership stumbled terribly,
We were both really drawn to the idea of partnering. We were excited
about designing and building our own space. We really liked each
other. We believed in each other's work. It felt like a perfect
match. And then, bit by bit, week by week, the tension of the project
overpowered our fragile foundation. It was only a matter of time
before we had to make a major decision of whether to continue our
Once the partnership dissolved, I picked up the pieces and considered
how to proceed. I realized that without help a lot of help
I couldn't accomplish my vision. I took a serious look at
how I needed to work with people in order to complete the
project and keep it pleasurable.
I set out with a clear intention on how I would co-create with
others. I decided that I needed to clearly state my vision with
prospective partners. If they wanted to be a part, we would then
develop a relationship to serve that vision.
Now that CoreSource is completed and far more grand than
the initial vision I've spent many hours reflecting on what
was different than other projects. Why didn't it work with my original
The biggest change I made was being clear about my role, and letting
others be clear about theirs. In my initial partnership, we hadn't
clearly defined our roles in the project and their importance
to the final product.
Although you can never totally frame a partnership before you dive
into the process, it's important that you know the role you are
willing to play. You must articulate the roles out loud. To each
other. If you feel like you have to defend them, or work real hard
to have them taken seriously, take a moment and ask: "Is this
partnership in full support of me and the work?" "Do I
feel honored ... and do I honor this person?"
If the answer is no, consider making another choice.
Before you have this conversation with your potential partners
you might want to answer the following questions. They'll give you
a starting point for a productive and insightful conversation.
Remember, do not shy from the answers. Be honest. It can save you
a huge heartache later.
- What part of the vision do I hold?
- What parts do my partner or partners hold?
- Do I trust their artistry, professionalism, integrity, ability
to follow through?
- Can I follow their lead?
- What do I need to support our success?
The last question is one many of us tend to avoid. Saying what
you really need may make you blush, or say, I can't ask for that,
they'll think I'm goofy. But as hard as it might be, that is precisely
the question you need to ask. It doesn't matter if others don't
need these things ... you do. So, ask. Stop cooperating. Ask for
what's important for you to be successful.
Here are a few of mine:
- My partners must really respect me, and I them (it doesn't mean
we have to agree on everything ... but there needs to be a deep
- My partners must be able to ask for what they want, directly,
even if they think it'll upset me.
- My partners must not be intimidated by my passion.
- My partners need to cry and laugh at disaster or failures.
So ... stop now and list 10 of your needs and wants from a partnership.
I'm serious. Don't just think about them, take a moment right now
and write them down.
Now choose the most essential five. Share your list with people
you've worked with. Share it with people you've been successful
with and those you haven't. Ask if there's anything they think you've
missed about yourself.
Then hang on to the list. Tape it up where you can see it every
day. The next time you're thinking of co-creating with someone,
bring the list with you. Talk about it. In the end, it's key that
you have a relationship that serves you to successfully and enjoyably
co-create your vision.
True co-creation means having a strong foundation of partnership
so that you can weather the inevitable ups and downs. By taking
the time and asking the hard questions in the beginning, you can
have an outcome greater than the sum of the partners.
Next month: Carolyn explores co-creating with clients and the
community at large.