Powers Of Two: Why Going It Alone Isn’t What It Is Cracked Up To Be!

Ok, I admit it.  I get pretty excited when I find a book that examines the way people work – together, afterall that is the tag of this website! Joshua Wolf Shenk’s work Powers of Two is a tremendous dive into the way that creative partnerships work, struggle, and ultimately end.9780544031593_hres

Shenk’s is just one of a growing number of texts that have busted the myth of the lone creator, as he points to examples of individuals whose previous position as the lone creator is actually a misreading of history and context (read the book and you will quickly recognize how Jobs wasn’t alone in his work, nor was George Lucas, Vincent Van Gogh or most of the people we look up to).

One of the things that I loved in this book is the classification of pairs that Shenk enumerates. Not all creative partnerships are the same, some favor one who is out in front and the other who stands in the shadows, others present a structure-giver and a content-filler, still others are directors who bring out the best in their stars. Each of these, and likely other models, gives us insight into the need that we have for others as we work (Shenk’s epilogue even points to his own partnership with his editor in making this book a reality).

For many of us, the challenge we have faced in pursuing that great idea, work of art, or new career direction, stems from the isolation we believe we will feel by going it alone. Yet, the reality is we need not seek the lone inventor/creator/designer paradigm. The truth is we all have our strengths and weaknesses. The greatest pairs often account for the balancing out of the weaknesses of the other. Why go it alone and lay your weaknesses out bear as you scratch and claw for success, when working to align with a partner can alleviate some of your major concerns?

What would it look like if instead of one, there were two?

Don’t just take my word for it, take a read of this deep, insightful book and examine what a new form of chemistry and partnership might look like in your own work or play!

I owe my soul to the company store

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store”

Most famously, these words were sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, but for a generation or more of workers, this song was the reality of life. You didn’t have a choice, the company store owned you. For the generation that followed things started to change. People didn’t owe their soul, so to speak, to the company store but they still worked their entire career at a single employer. And when they retired they received a golden watch and a pat on the back. The generation that followed that has found themselves in a shifting workplace, mergers and acquisitions, plant closings, businesses going bankrupt, but largely a single (or few) career path(s) in their career. And then it all changed.

Recently I came across an estimate that Millennials would change careers on average approximately 7 times – CAREER change, not job change! How do you prepare for a career, when the likelihood is that path won’t even last very long? Further, with estimates that of the jobs present in the marketplace in about 10 years, only half currently exist, how do you plan?

This was part of the conversation I had with a group of 8th graders at a local middle school during a recent “Career Fair”. If we want to prepare for the future, we can’t afford to think like the past. Rather than preparing for a particular job, the workers of the future, have to work to better understand themselves.

The framework I approach is pretty simple and is represented in the following Venn diagram:

venn diagram

Tomorrow, more on the model.