All installments in reverse chronological order
Before continuing, I want to expand on something from the previous installment.
I recalled how a solution I'd proposed was rejected outright - not because it wouldn't work, but because I'd skirted The Process:
When we have a business need, we sit around a conference table and apply tools and methods proven to yield desirable results. We use real metrics, not a heap of magical bullshit, and capable executives collaborate to determine the best possible course of action!I heard the term "collaboration" a lot at CNET, because it was something I was told I lacked. And it's taken years for me to understand this, because, actually, I've always been extremely collaborative.
Chowhound's management was never very hierarchical. While I retained veto power over decisions, I used it as seldom as possible, because I wanted people working behind scenes to feel enfranchised. The problem with treating workers like mindless drones is that, in the end, you're stuck with mindless drones! So things were always collaborative. In fact, Clay was shocked by how much sway even our "lowest" (whatever that even means!) workers had.
I've always loved collaboration in my music and writing careers, as well. Here's how it works: colleagues probe an impasse, hoping to spark a "Eureka" - a clever idea flashing from out of nowhere, giving rise to a contagious sizzle where everyone starts excitedly one-upping and tweaking the idea. "No, wait! What if we do it this way?!?" It's like magic; once the chain reaction starts, there's no limit to what can be achieved. It's pure creativity. This is how human beings transcend their animal nature: great ideas conjured up from nowhere and honed via ecstatic communal riffing.
I love this sort of thing, at least with genuinely creative people. But if someone uncreative joins in, the whole process will crash. They’ll despise the one-upmanship and bluntness, which irritates their egos. By contrast, creative people work beyond ego, focused entirely on the problem at hand. It's a profoundly different perspective.
For corporate (i.e. uncreative) people, the term collaboration means something very different. Eurekas are neither sought nor valued. There's no one-upmanship or blunt tweaking, which can offend (especially when offered by someone from a lower pay scale). Creative collaboration in this setting is viewed as an undisciplined, process-disrupting, authority-disrespecting outburst. It seems thoroughly uncollaborative!
So corporate collaboration is the exact opposite of creative collaboration. It's about pitching in to make your dry, measured, Smithers-ish case for why, say, the font should be a little bigger...and never blinking when your superior flatly rebuffs. It's about everything but hot eurekas and chain reactions.
I was frequently scolded for my poor collaborative skills, which naturally made me try to collaborate even harder. The vicious circle left Clay chronically irked, which I attributed to his (well-deserved) insecurity. But it was more than that. It's that there's a certain unbridgeable chasm between creative and non-creative people. They are almost like two different species.
I'm not sure either is necessarily superior. I noted that successful corporate execs compensate for their lack of creativity via relentlessness. But that dogged persistence is something I, like many flighty creative types, envy. Yes, I'd stuck steadily with Chowhound for nearly a decade, but I was fighting my nature the entire way. I craved fresh eurekas.
A case might be made that creative people compensate for their lack of relentlessness via their inventiveness.
Read the next installment (#24)