The Power Of Two: How Pairs Drive Innovation

Common wisdom tells us that two minds are better than one but evolving research into creativity and innovation is starting to reveal that two – no more and no less – might just be the magic number when it comes to reaching new creative heights.

Many of the conclusions being drawn from this research might seem like common sense to some but analysis of the dynamics between famous (and less famous) creative duos is compelling enough that it is beginning to challenge the notion of the singular, individual genius.

When it comes to #innovation and #creativity, two minds might be better than any other number. Click To Tweet

The power of two innovative minds

Joshua Wolf Shenk does the hard yards of this research in his book Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. A central focus of his report is the partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Their relationship was what Shenk calls a “liquid and the container” dynamic, with the unorganized free-spirit of Lennon being the liquid and McCartney – ever the structured and diplomatic one – the container.

He describes two other duo dynamics: “the star and the director” and “the dreamer and the doer”. In a star and director relationship one partner will be in the limelight and receive much of the credit – as a movie star does – while the director is happy to sit back and orchestrate their performance. Meanwhile, in a dreamer and doer dynamic one partner is the “ideas man/woman” while the other turns their dreams into something real.

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Shenk also points out that the partners need not work in the same space or even in cooperation. Many of the most famous duos he examined were actually fierce competitors, such as Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Both were incredible tennis players in their own right but their frequent showdowns on the court drove each of them to push their own abilities even further. A similar relationship can be observed in tennis today with the rivalry between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

The collaborative power of two

Of course, it’s more straightforward to examine the impact of a partnership when the duo are working together toward a common goal. Michael P. Farrell – author of Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work – discovered that such teamwork fosters constructive criticism (John Lennon famously remarked that if he couldn’t fight with his best friend [McCartney], who could he fight with?) and a “safe” environment – free of judgement – in which raw ideas can be suggested and explored.

Farrell points out that exploration of new art forms was typically undertaken by duos. He points to Monet and Bazille, and Tolkien and Lewis as prime examples.

As we previously explored in our post on the collaboration between Orville and Wilbur Wright, it is the differences between partners – and the resulting tension – that creates the spark of creative innovation. Lennon and McCartney had starkly different personalities – Shenk calls it the difference between “order” and “disorder” – but this allowed them to augment the other’s songs or lyrics with elements that wouldn’t have occurred to the other. It could be argued that these changes were what lifted their music from “good” to “legendary”.

Capture the power of two

Between this exploration of the power of two and our framing of a collaborative process for innovation, it’s becoming easy to see that the myth of the lone genius is no more than a myth. Collaboration is clearly the path to truly imaginative breakthroughs. John and Paul themselves would are quick to point out that they get by with a little help from their friends.

Blrt was designed to help you and your partner (or partners!) collaborate and innovate on the fly. Get started changing the world:

About Blrt

Blrt helps you get your point across quickly by allowing you to talk, point and draw over images, documents and websites. The resulting video-like recording is called a Blrt.

Your Blrts require much less bandwidth than video and can be shared with anyone on mobile or desktop. This makes Blrt ideal for both collaboration and the creation and sharing of dynamic content, as public Blrts can be embedded into any webpage.

Once recorded, Blrts are stored in the cloud and are exchanged with others in a conversation-like fashion. A record is kept of the exchange, and new parties and media can be added at any time.

Blrt shifts time and place, allowing users in a conversation to participate in their own time. In an era where activity-based working and distributed teams are commonplace, Blrt is revolutionising the way people interact to get things done.

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