However, I've also been frustrated by what can be a bit of over eagerness to collaborate by organizations. I've seen collaborations offered as stop-gaps for lack of action or even worse, low impact programs that maybe shouldn't have been around at all. I realized; however that I've been listening to and following a model collaborator since I was just 18 and a progressive rock star (at least in my own mind).
Robert Fripp and the band King Crimson represent a template for healthy, high impact collaborations. As a quick education, King Crimson is a progressive rock band. More to the point, King Crimson is a process for making music that's been around since 1969. Over the past 46 years they've had no hit singles, probably haven't cracked the Top 100 and have ceased to exist at least seven other times. Yet they remain vibrant and influential today.
Robert Fripp, their leader, is a genius of a guitar player and the antithesis of how great leaders are often discussed particularly around typical ideas of success and sustainability. In a world of feel-good rock and rollers (I'd date myself if I listed examples), his approach has been described as arrogant, demanding, obnoxious and overly serious. And he could care less.
I'm highlighting Fripp and the band for a simple reason. Stick with me on this thinking for a second. If you agree that we're all our own "operating entities" (an idea Fripp has used once) and that we all have an opportunity to collaborate with other operating entities in the pursuit of BETTER, than I believe he's created an intriguing formula....
This past Thursday marked the first performance of King Crimson Mark VIII. This is the eighth inception of KC so, as I noted, it's less an ongoing band than an idea or approach. Fripp maintains that "he is not King Crimson" and vice versa. Yet on the prior occasions when they disbanded, he was the initiator. He made the decision because I believe he sees himself first as a musician or operating entity and only after that as a part of a band or collaboration. The musician in him is all about discipline, experimentation, breaking boundaries and producing the most interesting, and ultimately satisfying music. The boundaries are one he's usually created due to his choice of other band personnel.
Quite simply, anytime King Crimson has gotten too comfortable on stage, too confident in they're ability to creating good music and too close to KNOWING what's next, Fripp puts the brakes on and ends the partnership. In his mind, collaboration is all about stretching the individual ability of all the partners into something far better than the overused term of synergy. When he gets to WOW!!! (and to hear this music, trust that he has), then its on to the next. Fripp always wants to be in a place of WONDERING what's next, what else is out there in the musical frontier - in fact, where is he going to be extremely UNCOMFORTABLE. His newest collaboration is just that; an opportunity to partner with almost all new musicians in the hopes of creating something utterly new, interesting and special. To me, that's the reason to have a partnership or collaboration.