“Einstein was no lone genius,” Ogilvy Sydney creative director, Jenny Mak, notes. That’s good news for all except unrelenting egotists and the creative industries can live without those. Here’s what will always make it great for Mak.
When we think about those who have achieved greatness, be it in film, music, art, sport, science or even advertising, we often think about the individual rather than the group. For hundreds of years, science and culture have focused on the self. Popular culture celebrates the hero. Schools test intelligence and learning through solo exams. Biographies shape our view of history. But the reality is, greatness in any field is rarely achieved through individual effort.
Take one of the greatest geniuses in history, Albert Einstein. While it’s easy to think of Albert Einstein as the Michael Jordan of theoretical physics, just like Mike, his greatness couldn’t have been achieved without other key players. Einstein was no lone genius. He collaborated closely with two of his fellow students at ETH Zurich, Marcel Grossmann and Michele Besso. Discussions among the three helped Einstein derive the special theory of relativity.
l-r: Marcel Grossman, Albert Einstein, Michele Besso
It’s reported that Einstein once told Grossmann, “you must help me, or else I’ll go crazy”. Grossmann was a gifted mathematician, whose notes helped Einstein greatly. So without the assistance from Grossmann, Einstein would never have nailed the final theory of relativity. They were clearly capable and talented in their own ways, but a game-changing team when combined.
Just like Einstein and Grossmann, by harnessing the power of teamwork and collaboration, we can overcome our own limitations to create something more than we could on our own. When we collaborate with other people, we can share ideas, get inspired and quickly eliminate what doesn’t work. Mutual passion can also help create the most unexpected and fantastic results.
The music industry is full of great examples. From pop star, Katy Perry’s, collaboration with rapper, Snoop Dogg, on California Gurls, to rapper, Lil Nas X, featuring country singer, Billy Ray Cyrus, on Old Town Road, both genre-bending bangers became instant viral hits.
It’s not unusual for artists from different genres to collaborate to bring different dimensions to their music, but what happens when a musician teams up with a sports brand? When Kanye West and Nike released the first Nike Air Yeezys, it pretty much broke the internet. One of the first collaborations between Nike and a non-athlete, the sneakers completely sold out in less than 10 minutes.
Whether it’s bringing multi-disciplinary thinkers together to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, to write the next chart-topping hit or to design the next best-selling shoes, through collaboration we have more chance of forming and sparking ideas that can go on to make all kinds of things, great.