I’ve spent a working lifetime bringing things into existence that didn’t exist before. I’ve been making things for a long time and I have noticed something crucial about collaborative efforts, whether they are software development, large art projects, the recording of a new album or a new product introduction. What the creative visionary cares about is reflected throughout the entire project and if that person cares about the wrong things or doesn’t spread the care about enough things, with balance, the efforts eventually fail; painfully.
There are many projects / enterprises where the creative visionary or driving force cares only about the money. They do so often at the expense of quality, caring about the collaborators that make the enterprise possible in the first place or at the expense of their paying customers. Recipe for disaster. When the people are abused, misused or treated with contempt, the wrong outcomes happen. People leave and the integrity of the creation is compromised. Customers do not have to put up with sub standard results, just so that you can get rich. In the end, even the profit is at risk.
I’ve been in other large scale collaborative enterprises where the customer comes first, the money is cared about second (which in itself can cause an interesting dynamic, to say the least), but the people that actually make the whole thing possible and the quality of the result were left behind in the dust. This kind of project can succeed marginally (or appear to succeed), but it’s not a happy place. There’s no long term future in it.
Of course, if you put quality as your main care, at the expense of everything else, you might not have a very long-lived project either. Strangely, I have never encountered this exceedingly rare species of collaborative project. For some reason, the most common case is that concern about money trumps all other cares. I think this is why so many collaborative projects and enterprises, whether in business or art, ultimately crumble.
People always laugh about “the vision thing”. I think that misses the point. What matters is what the creative force cares about most. If that is encompassed by the vision, then well and good, but often the vision does not include specific care instructions for the collaborators, the customers / audience or the quality of the work. In the ideal situation, the visionary has to care about the financial viability of the project, but not at the expense of the quality of the result, or by failing to adequately appreciate and care for the collaborators and the customers / audience.
Next time you find yourself involved in some large scale collaboration (or even leading one), ask yourself what the driving force (and hence organisation) cares about. If the list is incomplete or heavily skewed, watch the seeds of destruction gradually grow.