If someone was to ask me to look back upon five decades of work experience and nominate the most important aspect of worklife, I would say it is collaboration, not competition.

That’s isn’t to say competition in the work place doesn’t exist. It does, and there have been periods where competitive behaviour has been promoted above all else. Overall, my observations are that collaboration is far more effective for ensuring your ideas become accepted by a broad group of people.

In the artistic environment ideas are the engine that drive an organisation forward. Ideas are generated by people. The challenge can be, that while each of us is capable of generating an idea, only some of us develop the capacity to gather support for those ideas.

There are many factors impacting upon our ability to gather support. Two factors in particular can stop an idea in its tracks. The first is that we assume others will love the idea. The second is our unwillingness to let go.

When we first develop an idea it will be incomplete. Putting an idea up for discussion exposes it to critique and modification. It is important to remember when you first promote a concept, it is just an idea. The final outcome will likely look very different.

To apply an analogy from nature. Consider yourself a seed nestled under the soil. You release the first shoots and push them through the soil to sunlight. You have put the idea on the table. The future of that seedling, and its sustainable development, is dependent upon the support of other elements; plants, bugs, food sources etc. It is the same with your idea. Its ultimate success is dependent upon input and support from others.

Your ego may be wrapped up in your idea, however your identity is not. Your identity is defined by your ability to let go. Sometimes your role may end at the point where you table an idea; other times that will be the starting point of your involvement.

There is a difference between putting an idea up for discussion, and competing for the right to make an idea yours alone. The difference is evident in how you behave. Those putting an idea up for discussion will sit back, listen respectfully, take notes and thank others for their input. Those competing for the right to own the idea will reject input as criticism, argue without listening and defend a concept to it’s untimely and often, early death.

Don’t stop dreaming or putting forward ideas. Just understand your idea is like the seedling emerging from the seed. To become sustainable it needs support, nurturing, nutrient and protection from evil forces. You cannot provide all of this alone. Just as a forest is never made up of a single tree.

If you would like help with building capacity and capabilities within your arts organisation email John.

I’m John Coxon. I write on topics of interest to arts organisations, galleries and those working in the arts ecosystem. Thank you for giving some of your time to read this post. If you would like to read more just select any image on our home page.

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