Creativity: The Importance of Listening and Collaborating

There’s a fascinating interview in yesterday’s New York Times* with Francesca Zambello, artistic director of the Washington National Opera. Her personal experience aligns exactly with my research on collaboration and creativity:

Creativity cannot explode if you do not have the ability to step back, take in what everybody else says and then fuse it with your own ideas. Theater is one of the most collaborative art forms, and you have to be able to absorb everything that people tell you….When I go into meetings with successful business people, I’m always amazed at how much they’re able to just sit there and absorb things and then make a really good decision.

Having original ideas is what makes you successful, if you know how to implement them. It’s a rare thing because some people have the ideas and other people have the mechanics, but they can’t do both.

You have to learn how to fail.

Perhaps my biggest study of group creativity was my study of Chicago improvisational theater groups. I learned that theater is truly an ensemble art form: the purest example of group genius.

*Adam Bryant, “First, make sure your idea works on a small stage.” New York Times, Sunday April 7, 2013, page BU2.

5 thoughts on “Creativity: The Importance of Listening and Collaborating

  1. Yes, this really rings a bell! I am right now working on a PhD research proposal that elaborates the similarities between your approach to discourse analysis of improvisational jazz groups and my the discourse analysis that I have planned to conduct throughout a research study at a world-leading aerospace engineering company, located in Europe and North America. Among other things, it will be interesting to observe improvisation from an engineer’s/engineering perspective.


    1. That sounds fascinating! Do you know my book called “Improvised Dialogues”, a discourse analysis of improv theater dialogues? I will mail you a copy if you like. And for more on jazz and dialogue, there is Ingrid Monson’s influential book _Saying Something_.

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