Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Finding the Creative Spark By Finding the Right Creative Partner

Wiki Commons image

When it comes to creativity and innovation, the conventional wisdom is that it is the work of solitary geniuses, working alone in a lab.  Writer Joshua Wolf Shenk says we should take the conventional wisdom and multiply it - by two.

Shenk's new book, Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs, uses numerous instances of partnerships as case studies, and explains why these pairs exude the qualities that lead to intense creativity.

These creative pairs span a diverse group of fields - computer science (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak), biology (Francis Crick and James Watson), and even art (Vincent van Gogh and his brother, Theo).  But Shenk says no pair better exemplifies the power and the chemistry of creative partnerships than John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

 "They hit all the themes, starting with the way they met," Shenk says.  "When you think about this quality of chemistry or electricity, it usually begins with the juxtaposition of profound similarities and rapport and alignment."

Shenk says the partnership worked at the beginning because of Lennon and McCartney's love for the same music and by their shared ambition.  As the partnership, and their careers as Beatles, went along, other important creative elements came to the fore - such as different personality types.

"This combination of great likeness and great dislikeness created both their synergy and then tension between them - and that runs all the way through their partnership."

Shenk says a takeaway for the rest of us is not necessarily to go out and find a Lennon to our McCartney (or vice versa), but to increase our awareness.  "Some people might be in a creative relationship and not even know it," he says.  "Some people really do need more, and they need to actively cultivate this quality in their lives.  

"A lot of people have suffered because they think they can do it on their own much more than they can."