The Connective Motivation of Collaboration
Date: July 13, 2010
Last week I blogged about the need for collaboration as a strategic imperative for our work as choral directors as we seek to equip and inspire choral directors and choral music education and performance. This week I want to address one "why" of collaboration.
Collaboration can provide an "insurance policy" against the real threat and possibility of quitting as we face the ups and downs of the creative process. When we collaborate, we spread the risk, which encourages us to take more chances. Further, collaboration may widen the scope of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation derives from what you personally enjoy in a task. By collaborating, extrinsic motivation joins with intrinsic motivation, providing ongoing insurance against the fragile state of our individual desires.
Collaboration bolsters unstable self-discipline because one becomes attached and responsible to the other collaborator as well as the focus of the work and mission. Collaboration lessens the loneliness of creative work and reduces the fears of going against field norms which are and can be the sclerosis of any group or organization.
What we want to achieve as we go forward with the work of the American Choral Directors Association in this collaboration initiative is connective motivation--collaboration motivated by maximizing the energies various partners bring to a project. In this level of creative collaboration, each partner's love for the work and for the shared goal moderate the inherent difficulties that can challenge collaborative efforts.
I am not naive to the challenges of creative collaboration. In fact, I face them regularly. Here is my short list of challenges:
Impatience--Collaboration takes a lot of time. In addition to the work itself, time and effort must also be directed to the relationship, which is almost like an additional partner. If people and organizations see this time and effort as a cost rather than an investment, problems are more likely to arise that can short-circuit the collaborative process. So, let your mindset be that of an investment.
Ownership--Identification with one's work is a powerful motivator in intellectual and artistic work. But in collaboration, the desire for owning one's efforts can become a source of conflict when apportioning credit. So, think of "we" being the owner instead of "I".
Conflict--In a lot of team efforts, conflict is considered something to be avoided. Groups that emphasize consensus rather than working on an effective synthesis of multiple perspectives tend to depress creativity. In effective collaborations, conflict is another tool to deepen understanding. So, to use our own song culture, when the water becomes troubled, "Wade in the Water".
Unfriendliness--There is a general notion that people who work together should like each other. I suggest that working together is simply a higher goal than the alternative, not working together. So, liking each other may or may not happen. If it does, great ! If it doesn't, the literature suggests it isn't necessary.