The Importance Of Creative Partnerships

By Patti M Cook

After college, one of my first professional jobs was in Washington DC under the tutelage of two very different women. Both were very good at what they did and together they interweaved mutually beneficial but vastly different strengths into a profitable company.

Linda, the CEO, early in her career had been given a single $500.00 loan. She turned that small amount into a thriving event management company in the nation’s capitol that grossed over a million dollars a year. She was a dreamer, a lady who talked multiple subjects at once and instead of wanting to know what you could do, she wondered what you thought.

Valerie, her counterpart and president of the company, was a straight shooting ninja at negotiation, networking and business growth. Nothing passed in or out of the company without Valerie’s scrutiny and approval. She was the nuts and bolts of the company – the spreadsheets and management.

Day in and day out, I watched these women work together, brainstorm together, live through their differences and rely on their complements. It was a fascinating first hand ride though learning about creative partnerships.

Recently on a local talk show, the book Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs by Joshua Wolf Shenk was discussed. In the interview, Shenk mentions many well-known creative duos and discusses what drives them forward or sparks them into new and unknown territory together.

For me, one of the most important reminders from Shenk was in how these duos interact in order to create. One of the duo might throw out an idea and then say to the other, “That’s a crazy idea, right?” and the other half of the duo says, “Yes…Let’s do it!”

In my experience, good friendships, partnerships and mentors all have this type of quality to them. It is part competition but mostly collaboration. It is the mutual respect of creation that is brought into play by two different people who somehow see, create and support the same vision. Creative partnerships can change, if not the whole world (think Apple or the Beatles), at least your own world profoundly.

I have often thought about the partnerships I have in my life. It makes me curious and conscious about where and with whom I spend my time – personal and professional. This year one of my goals is to look for and seek out these types of creative interactions, to open up a space for possibility and perhaps find people who just might say, “Yes…Let’s do it!”

What has been your experience with partnerships? Do they inspire your creativity? How do you find new creative partners? What are some of your “why not” ideas?

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