The myth of the collaborative genius
Which myth about creativity do you prefer to believe?
The myth of the solitary genius:
- An individual with superhuman abilities.
- Appears out of nowhere, free of influence or precedent.
- Has a sudden moment of inspiration.
- He devotes his whole life to his work.
- Creates a masterpiece of world-renowned success.
The myth of the collaborative genius:
- An individual with normal abilities.
- Born into a society that influences him and nurtures him with ideas.
- Finds a niche in the knowledge of that society.
- Uses ideas and tools available from society to fill that gap.
- Creates a useful and novel work that is integrated into society’s knowledge.
If we believe in the myth of the solitary genius, we will see creativity as an anti-social act that is only available to privileged minds.
I don’t have a privileged mind, therefore, according to this myth, doing creative work is out of my reach.
On the other hand, I do see myself reflected in the myth of the collaborative genius. I don’t need to be a genius for my own sake: interacting, collaborating and using the ideas of others is what makes us geniuses.