Not a team player
There was an interesting article in The Harvard Business Review that caught my eye this week: "Why A Great Individual Is Better Than A Good Team" by Jeff Stibel.
Stibel is the Chairman and CEO of Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and the author of Wired for Thought.
Stibel makes the case for the very high valuations of certain CEOs who run businesses - and if you saw the quarterly reports for Apple today, you will know that Steve Jobs is clearly priceless.
Business allows for greatness of the individual to rise above the rest - sometimes.
Art and literature are absolutely dependent upon it.
Great writers and great artists are not 'team players' and their best works are not the product of a 'team effort'.
In fact, the notion of applying a team effort to the creation of art or literature would be looked at as insane, not to mention destructive to the entire enterprise.
Great artists don't work in teams.
An artists gets a vision for what they want to do and then applies paint to canvas. Maybe they produce junk and maybe they produce Guernica.
But that's where great art comes from.
Great authors have an idea for a book.
They sit down with typewriter, or pen and paper or word process and begin to bang it out.
Maybe they produce War and Peace.
And maybe they produce piece of crap.
But that's how great literature is created.
Television, at its inception, was an extremely complex and expensive product to make.
The tools for creating it were so expensive in fact, that only a few giant corporations could even afford to buy them, let alone force the images through the air into people's homes. Thus, the act of creating video and television was, since its inception, by economic necessity, a 'team event'.
And as a result, the product was predictably mediocre.
But now the technology has changed.
Now, for the very first time, we have the power to de-couple television and video from the necessity of the 'team' and begin to inject a sense of authorship into the product.
This is a new moment for TV and video.
Just as Picasso was able to pick up a brush and canvas and create something radical, disturbing, yet totally engaging and different, so too now can anyone pick up a camera (or a phone) and create something radical, disturbing, yet totally engaging and different.
The moment of authorship - and thereby the moment of the Great Individual has arrived in video and television.
Stibel puts it quite well talking about business, but he is also talking about any creative endeavour:
The same is true when it comes to people. Our intelligence is incredibly complex and as a result, a great individual can far exceed the value of many mediocre minds. This is why it is absurd to ask questions like "how many mediocre people would it take to collectively beat Kasparov in a chess match?"
Mediocre minds can also destroy the value or contribution of a great mind. No matter how good Kasparov is at chess, he would not do well playing doubles with a mediocre chess player against Bobby Fisher alone. Or take Michelangelo's David as an example. A second artist cutting into David would cause massive destruction to the sculpture, even if that artist was Picasso. With each successive stroke of the chisel from additional artists, David's value, beauty, and overall impact would diminish. A perfect — albeit destructive — example of a power function.
The trick is, that once you have the camera and you are on your own, you must disconnect from a desire to replicate what you have seen before. That was something made by a 'group'. Learn to follow your passions and instincts instead.