The Myth of a Lone Hero

It is commonly thought that artists and innovators are lonely – and often eccentric or even crazy – types. However, both an artist, and an innovator must involve others in the creation and production process. Most of them learn to collaborate extensively.Truly, the fame of one person is usually a result of the work of many. In our celebrity-focused culture, however, we like to create stories of heroic single persons as inventors or artists and assign fame to them.  Thus we have created a persistent myth of a lone creator.

Just as Scott Berkun points out in his book The Myths of Innovation, it actually turns out that it is hardly possible for a single person to take an idea to market without engaging others. He notes that most of the time we even don’t know the true origins of original inventions; often it takes years – sometimes thousands of years – of human trial and error and development of ideas before the invention affects the change. It turns out that we like stories and history that are easier told through citing a single person’s experience. Scott writes a great example of how Edison wasn’t the first one to invent a light bulb but his story was a great one to tell.

Do you know of innovation stories that feature collaboration or team work?

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