"" bshawise: Playing Catch: part one

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Playing Catch: part one

It's been almost a week since we put on The Christmas Show (it'll be online if you missed it). All in all, I am quite pleased. I've been thinking how to blog about a few thoughts bouncing around my head since the show. I've decided to do a series of posts. If you were around for the Tadpole series, it'll feel like that probably.

The idea for this series came after trying to make a bunch of fortune cookie statements about my learnings from this year's show. One of them was something like, "Collaboration is the most productive and rewarding action we can take in life." I believe that to be true. And if you know me, you know I like to use/mix metaphor(s) when describing things. My main metaphor in this series will be using the game of catch to describe collaboration. Enough set up, let's begin.

Good collaboration is like a good game of catch. When I was a kid, I all but lived to play catch with my dad. He was a football coach and he played college football. I remember honestly believing that if he wanted to he could punt the ball and hit an airplane. So we'd play catch after he got home from practice, we'd play on the weekends at halftime of the OSU game, we'd play after church, and the ultimate was playing under the lights before the pre-game warm ups on Friday nights. For whatever reason, there's something magical about catch. If you don't cry in Field of Dreams at the moment you are pure robot.

Catch almost always begins with one person's idea. In my case, it was usually me saying to my dad, "Let's play catch." Catch sucks with just one person. So I had to find someone who could help me execute my idea. And many times I had to cast a little vision in order to convince my dad. "Let's play catch. After dinner. We can do it in the backyard in the shade and it'll awesome and I'll catch every pass and c'mon what do you say, let's play catch."

So the very first rule in collaboration is once you have the idea you have to find your partner. This is easier said than done. In the game of catch I never once asked my mom to play. She would've been more than willing and available. She would've even tried really hard. But she sucks at catch. A good idea can die prematurely if you pick the wrong collaborator. A good idea can also die if you don't cast the appropriate vision. You have to know the person you're asking and the situation they're in. I often knew my dad was hungry, tired and sick of being in the sun. So I knew we needed dinner and shade for catch to be a possibility.

Picking the right collaborator and casting the appropriate vision factored into my initial steps toward collaboration in The Christmas Show. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I fell on my face. I won't go into specifics because I don't think it's applicable. But my point is, you really need to think thru who you ask to play catch. If you're tossing around the idea of starting a business, buying a house, experimenting with a new hobby, whatever, this first step of who you ask to help is crucial. So many factors go into the choice. For me, when I ask people to collaborate with me on creative projects I think about their experience/expertise, their availability, their track record (can I trust them?). I can't ask someone to help just because their available and interested. They have to know how to _______ and I have to know I can trust them to deliver. These factors have to be thought thru before the project starts. Nothing worse than starting that game of catch and realizing your available and interested partner throws like a girl.

The other reality is that oftentimes, the person you're asking to help doesn't see in themselves what you see. So they may think they don't have the level of expertise you need. Or they may not feel they have the availability. This is when you have to cast the appropriate vision and be willing to begin collaborating even in the idea stage. I'll give you a specific example. I wrote the script for the heaven animation portion of the show. I immediately when to Mark and Lay and asked, "Can we do this?" They read the script and said no. It needed to be simplified. So I rewrote the script and went back and asked, "How bout now?" They said yes, kind of. We then went back and forth brainstorming ways to do the animation that was up to our standards and possible in our timeframe. We came up with a style and a tentative schedule. We tweaked as we went along. They were the right collaborators from the start. But if I weren't willing to adapt my idea and figure out ways for the project to fit into their schedule, skill set, etc. it never would've happened.

Find the right people to play catch and be willing to play after dinner in the shade. That's step one.

No comments: