Of all the mistakes I’ve made in my advertising career, perhaps the biggest ones were not staying partners with two art directors with whom I had a great working relationship. One left an agency I was working at, the other I left behind for another agency. Because, as I’ve learned the hard way, a great partner is as good, and as rare, as gold. It’s the nature of creative teams that Joshua Wolf Shenk explores in Powers Of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs.
Shenk doesn’t look at advertising’s creative teams. He looks at bigger folks: Lennon and McCartney. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. You get the idea. But there are plenty of parallels to these partnerships and the great copywriter/art director teams that we find in advertising. The initial chemistry, the trust that binds them, the need for distance, it’s all part of the teamwork that produces great work. And in every great pairing Shenk examines, there’s a unique push-and-pull that creates the kind of excellence a person can rarely achieve alone.
Shenk uses his examples to lay out his case, so the stories he’s compiled makes for a great read. I’m not sure there’s a lot of actual tips on how to find a great creative partner in Powers of Two, just a potent reminder that if you do find one, hold onto that person.
Special thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a review copy.