The Power of Emotional Collaborations

The Power of Emotional Collaborations

From Arlene | Posted by - January 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Collaboration is one of the keys to success as an entrepreneur. No one can build a successful company alone, not even a visionary entrepreneur with a one-in-a-million idea. It takes too many different skills to launch an enterprise, and while some people are brilliant strategists, they're not necessarily great multi-taskers. Or they're managerial geniuses, but terrible at sales. Everyone, even the best leaders, needs collaborators who complement their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

There are shelves of business books about why collaboration is so important for entrepreneurs. And a lot of really smart people have developed Ivory Tower theories on the subject. What's interesting to me, though, is how rarely anyone talks about the emotional connection that underpins the best forms of entrepreneurial collaboration.

I'm willing to bet that at one time or another everyone who's reading this post has had the experience of working with people who leave them cold, and others who inspire them to dig deeper, drive harder, simply because they feel more connected to them. When I think about the partnerships that have meant the most to me as an entrepreneur, and the people from whom I've learned the most, at the core there is almost always some kind of deeper connection that goes beyond the bottom line and calculations of mutual benefit. You can't buy emotional connections like that, no matter how rich you are. You have to cultivate them. And once you do, I think you are wise to consider them a wellspring from which to draw, for not only is it a lovely, rewarding part of an entrepreneur's day to build and engage in those connections, it can be incredibly valuable when you take the time to do so.

Look at Steve Jobs (an emotional guy if ever one walked the planet!), and the genius that emerged from his collaboration with his designer, Jony Ive. Jobs used to have lunch with Ive almost every day, and wander around his private design studio batting around ideas with him, just the two of them there. Or consider Jobs' fruitful collaboration with Lee Clow, Chief Creative Officer of TBWA/Chiat Day, the advertising agency that created all those iconic Apple ads--a relationship Jobs remained faithful to for over two decades.

What's more, because Jobs was such a fanatic about unplanned collaborations, his design for Pixar studio's campus envisioned an atrium where those chance encounters could happen. As Walter Isaacson wrote in his recent biography, Jobs believed that "if a building doesn't encourage [collaboration], you'll lose a lot of the innovation and magic that's sparked by serendipity. So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see."

Besides containing a fitness center, viewing rooms, a large theatre and much more, the atrium houses the only two washrooms in the place. Jobs made that design decision deliberately. He did so because he believed that people would be forced to cross the atrium to get to the washrooms, bump into colleagues on their way, strike up conversations, and from those chance collaborations, ideas would flow. Even solitary types, who would typically keep to themselves, would be forced to engage in conversations, if only while washing their hands. By all accounts, Steve's idea promoted collaboration and creativity from day one.

Steve Jobs was an entrepreneurial genius. He created the most successful company of all time. Clearly, there are many reasons why that is so, but I believe his intuitive understanding of and respect for the power of emotional connections--planned or serendipitous--is a huge part of his success story.

How powerful a role do you think emotional collaborations play in determining an entrepreneur's success? How significant a role have those collaborations played in your own entrepreneurial life?

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, blog, emotion, collaboration, inspiration, entrepreneur, apple, Steve Jobs

Pam Raithby-Rennie
January 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm

The world is becoming smaller, yet in some ways the more we connect via technology the less we connect emotionally. Something I think many people are trying to find again. A large part of our research in designing our program was to rebuild that social/emotional piece as an integral part of the success it (thinkmotion). Our first venture began 16 years ago ( and what keeps people coming and makes strong first impressions is how everyone that comes in contact with us becomes part of the process. The initial idea began with one but it is the collaboration and commitment of all to challenge each other, share ideas, try new things and continue to improve that keeps all of us motivated and excited to see what the next day brings. Emotional collaboration keeps the entrepneur going through the highs and lows of the journey.

Allaboutyouvideo Judy Whale
January 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Oh my goodness, you are sooooo right, Arlene! That is the problem that I have. I am a great multi-tasker/production person, but a terrible sales-person. But what do you do when you can't afford a sales person? I have found that organized networking groups can go a long way to partially help with emotional collaboration because you do form great friendships, they do offer advice when you ask and are willing to help spread the word about your business, but honestly, I still find that my biggest challenge is figuring out WHEN to bring someone else on board, how and at what stage to justify the expense and how to determine who would be best when that area of expertise is not something you can judge well. Sorry, more questions than answers, but just my thoughts. 

Margo Stinson
January 10, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Judy - I am the opposite great sales person terrible multi-tasker/production person.  My problem is I am a control freak, and not able to delegate. In regards to WHEN to bring someone else on board for me would be when they could generate enough money to justify their income as well as boost yours.

Allaboutyouvideo Judy Whale
January 11, 2013 at 12:16 am

:) I am also a bit of a control freak, Margo. Like things done a certain way and since what I do is my form of art, it's not something I can simply hand over, but there are some things I could do. Part of the problem I've seen in networking groups is when people DO bring someone else on board and it actually causes them to go more into debt because the person is not able to do the job the way the person needed it to be done and I am nervous of that too. Hmmm, we sound like a great pair! Will have to check and see what you do! :)

Margo Stinson
January 11, 2013 at 4:09 am

I hear you Judy, early on we hired a local Marketing Co and it was a disaster.  After spending thousands of dollars they did not bring in a dime of business.  I think after that experience I became more of a control freak over my business.  Although I LOVE the idea of networking groups, it can sometimes bring on marketers that really only care about themselves.  So its always buyer beware.  That said, if your not the greatest at selling perhaps you could look into having a rep that works on commission. 


lisa patrick
January 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm

No one who started out got to achieve success on their own.  Every entrepreneur who has achieved success has done so with ensuring that they first and foremost understand their OWN strengths and their OWN weaknesses and surround themselves with professionals that compliment both and together as a team they strive to achieve.  Success is achieved with a lot of patience and hard work and TEAM effort. 

Great article - great comments!

Shirley Weir
January 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Any tips for saying "NO" to potential collaborators without shooting yourself in the foot? The ones who come to you, intuitively they don't "fit" with your brand identity, they have potentially more to gain from the collaboration, you've checked their references and know it's not the right move for you, etc.

February 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I totally agree, it's difficult to achieve success on your own. I've seen so many businesses fail because they thought they knew everything and refused to let the experts in. My partner and I admit when there is something we don't know, and we have a plethora of experts at our fingertips that we go to when we need anything. Even my partner (and brother), a Project Manager, says that you need to admit when your team is more knowledgeable than you. So when his lead developer tells him something, he listens. In order to be able to emotionally collaborate with others you must also be able to admit that you do not know everything, and you have to be open to hear other opinions and be eager to learn. We are experts at certain things, but not everything, and the best thing one can do to move forward is to learn from others and collaborate!

Tish Heath
April 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I'm not sure that there is anything more beautiful that having an idea and seeing how somebody else interprets it.  It feels like that person saw something beautiful in you and pulled it out.  Like you both belong to this new entity.  When you share in creating a new life there is a bond that goes beyond desks and computers and the sign outside.  With every new birth the connection grows.  Irreplaceable.

Brenda Larson
April 14, 2013 at 2:14 am
Margo and Judy - good conversation!! I have all the ideas for product development (school teacher) but I struggle so much with the marketing and can't afford to hire someone.
Richard Cleary
October 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm
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