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I wonder still about the hybrid model of teamwork that The Voice appears to use—and maybe has pioneered. I can identify examples of teams that always work as a group and also feature individual performances, such as a violin soloist or lead singer. There are other models that always involve competition. But to bring the two approaches together, as The Voice hybrid model appears to do, leaves me scratching my head even as my briar patch scratches at my shins, prickling with the question: how is this possible…?

I have long been fascinated by issues of performance and creativity that, back in the day, were typically characterized and analyzed as individualistic. The artist, the writer, pole vaulter, chess master, inventor or scientist visualized and studied as the lone soul, giving it their all in a solitary effort.


Think Van Gogh struggling in a garrett, a captivating view, deeply rooted in the public consciousness. Yet, even Vincent was not alone. Theo, his brother, was a pillar of support, along with the peasant workers in the fields of Saint Remy, not to mention the staff caring for him in the asylum. Team Van Gogh provided what it took—a group effort to keep the reclusive painter going. And it worked. The Irises, which hangs today in the Getty Museum, offers a testament. It was only after Vincent left the asylum and strayed from the team that he took his own life.


As a writer, I feel so grateful to my “teammates.” I might sit alone at the keyboard for hours, but the reader is always with me. We have a partnership of some kind, either I bring the reader along with me, keeping hold of their hand, or the reader grabs on to mine, steadies me, keeps me going.


I am indebted to my various editors, each offering feedback, criticism, and perspective. These are the teammates that save me from ...from everything ruinous. They save me from leaps I have made, or shifts in point of view, point out what is unclear, advise me to go deeper. Thank god, they save me from myself.


And now with a book deal in hand, I am being introduced to new teammates, the ones who will help me with getting the manuscript ready for the printer, and the ones organizing marketing and publicity campaigns, arranging book-signing tours. “It takes a village,” it takes a team to support an author and launch a book.


As for competition-collaboration models, I know of another approach: efforts that begin competitively and end collaboratively. I have the themed entertainment industry squarely in my sights. No Brambles here. This is an industry, like several others in L.A., that is project-based. Competing companies bid for a particular project, perhaps a new theme park, or re-theming an old one. The winners often then hire the firms they were bidding against to complete the project. Once competitors, they all become collaborators, teammates striving to deliver the best effort, to design and build the best experience. When the project is completed, the teammates will lift their glasses in a champagne toast, only to go their separate ways, return to the competing firms they always were.


So I go back to the question: how is The Voice’s model even possible. The thorns scratch, do not accept my examples when I return to my thicket of thoughts about the show’s hybrid model of teamwork. Why do I like The Voice when I don’t want my editors or anyone else on my team competing? I wrote a book about empathy, you see, so yes, I want to come down on the side of collaboration. We are nothing if not Homo Empathicus. And yet we are an American species who loves The Voice.

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