“Good artists borrow, great artists steal” Picasso is commonly said to have uttered at some point. Whether or not he said this, or stole the quote from someone else, it’s pretty accurate. Shakespeare, who could run against anyone for Most Creative Person Ever, is well known to have used foreign plays or histories for all but a few plays. He didn’t cite anything because that’s just not what you did at the time—there was no internet and no copyright law policing ideas.
These days most people don’t take too kindly to idea thieves, clever or otherwise (just ask Jonah Lehrer). So how do we get the benefit of multiplied perspectives without the mess of copyright infringement and ethical violations? Diverse collaborations, that’s how!
Instead of going it alone and depending on your knack for lateral thinking (which, even in the most flexibly-minded of us, is limited), working with people from disparate backgrounds can expand and enrich the creative component of any project. While it’s generally true that a career’s worth of sustained vertical thinking is what wins Nobel Prizes, cross-discipline collaborations yield some of the most interesting and innovative results. Take, for example, the first algae-powered building, unveiled last summer. This revolutionary building was created by engineers, architects, biologists, and artists from three different companies. Alone, none of them could have pulled it off.
Ultimately this is the kind of collaboration is necessary to solve puzzling problems, big and small, whether it’s how to build and power sustainably or how to help an existing brand venture into a new category. It’s how we do things at PARAGRAPH as well. When our multi-disciplinary team sits down to tackle a new problem, we bring our own unique backgrounds to the strategy table, and our research is all the more interesting for it. So, to sum up, collaboration: it’s the next best thing to plagiarizing people who are smarter than us.
When passers by kept snapping pictures of the witty quotes posted outside Division of Labor’s office, things like “No Good Comes from Hitting Reply All”, they realized they were on to something. And when they decided to shore up the resulting book-length collection of similarly clever posters with some research, they came to us. We surveyed 800 office workers across the country, asking questions on subjects varying from coworker peeves to office-related indiscretions. Now we’ve gone back and taken some of our favorite bon mots and done a little more research, and explored them a little further. Enjoy!