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The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together Paperback – 16 Feb 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (16 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416576517
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416576518
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 0.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 490,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER on 31 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
As is my custom when a new year begins, I recently re-read this book and The Creative Habit while preparing questions for interviews of thought leaders. The insights that Twyla Tharp shares in them are, if anything, more valuable now than when the books were first published.

It would be a mistake to ignore the reference to "habit" in their titles because almost three decades of research conducted by K. Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University clearly indicate that, on average, at least 10,000 hours of must be invested in "deliberate," iterative practice under strict and expert supervision to achieve peak performance, be it playing a game such as chess or a musical instrument such as the violin. Natural talent is important, of course, as is luck. However, with rare exception, it takes about ten years of sustained, focused, supervised, and (yes) habitual practice to master the skills that peak performance requires.

Tharp is both a dancer and a choreographer and thus brings two authoritative, indeed enlightened perspectives to her discussion of the life lessons for working together. Many of the same requirements for effective collaboration on classic Disney animated films such as Snow White and Pinocchio must also be accommodated when members of an orchestra and of a ballet company collaborate on a performance of Stravinsky's The Firebird.

Tharp characterizes herself as a "career collaborator" who identifies problems, organizes them, and solves them by working with others. Many of the stories she shares in this book "involve the world of dance, but you don't have to know anything about dance to get the pint. Work is work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had thought it was going to be a bit more practical.
I had liked the Creative Habit for its practical exercises.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tee Patterson on 20 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Love it!, the book arrived in brilliant quality.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Sorry, but I can't agree. 13 Dec. 2009
By Theresa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was eager to own this book after hearing Ms Tharp (who I think is brilliant)interviewed on NPR. After reading the book jacket and reviews here on Amazon I even thought this book might be a good gift for my work team at our annual training. Unfortunately the book is mostly anecdotes strung together into chapter form, triple spaced in large font format; perhaps charming, but not a substantial read. I felt compelled to write a review because this is not "how-to" or a "business book" as the jacket claims and the current reviews here are somewhat misleading. Buy it if you love theater and want a slim text to adorn your coffee table but don't expect more.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
OK, to a point 23 Oct. 2010
By wiredweird - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Tharp's The Creative Habit immensely. I consider it one of the clearest statements of what it takes to succeed in a creative field, be it dance, art, engineering, or any of the sciences. So I dove into this with high hopes.

I fully agree with everything she says. Collaborations differ according to whether the rest of the team is nearby or distant, or is a friend, institution, or community. Collaboration is learned, and it matters critically in all but the smallest kind of endeavor. And, as in everything else, careful preparation and hard, continuous work improve your chances of success as much as they can be improved. Tharp illustrates these points largely through her own experience with dancers like Barishnikov, dance companies around the world, and small companies of her own. Always, in the relationship between choreographer and dancer, there is an asymmetry: the choreographer designs and the dancer executes. Tharp emphasizes the other half of this relationship as well: the choreographer pays close attention to each dancer, as well, in order to discover and play to their unique strengths. And, of course, performers collaborate with the audience. She illustrates this with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." That nearly failed as a stage production until the creators added one song: the introduction, "... comedy tonight." Once viewers had their expectations set properly, they loved it.

Each chapter ends with a case study: Steve Martin, clothing designer Norma Kamali, her experience with David Byrne, and more. These add focus and concreteness to the discussion. They also emphasize the rewards of successful collaboration for all concerned. I found the discussion lacking in a few ways, however. Perhaps Tharp has never had a collaborator she just couldn't get along with. A little professionalism goes a long way, but the pathological cases do exist. You can't always just bail, so a little more mention of damage control might have helped. Perhaps that asks too much though - to paraphrase Tolstoy, "Happy collaborations are all alike; every unhappy collaboration is unhappy in its own way." Tharp also concentrates on collaborations between peers, albeit peers with different responsibilities in the collaboration. Nearly all collaborations in industry involve management hierarchies. Although engineers (drawing on my own experience) and managers can often work together in their different spheres, the boss/bossed relationship can't be denied and imposes special demands of its own.

I found "The Collaborative Habit" helpful, entertaining, and very readable. There's a lot to agree with, including one gem: "... really smart and talented people don't hoard the 'secrets' of their success - they share them." I appreciate brevity, too. Without its airy typesetting, this ~150 page book might have been half as long. Despite her wide experience, however, Tharp seems to lack experience in some of the kinds of collaborations in which many people must engage. This book is good, but it's not the classic that I consider "The Creative Habit" to be.

- wiredweird
29 of 40 people found the following review helpful
What is it like to collaborate with a genius? Bracing. Exciting. 24 Nov. 2009
By Jesse Kornbluth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The first time I took the elevator to Twyla Tharp's penthouse was a grey, chilly morning in early April. We sat in her minimalist office that overlooked a terrace that overlooked Central Park, but when you're in a room with Twyla Tharp, it's hard to notice anything else.

To say she can be intimidating is to understate.

Her features are sharp, her hair is no-nonsense white, her glasses are oversized and round. Somewhere below her neck is a small, taut body, and a white shirt and loose jeans, but none of that matters. Only her gaze does, and it was focused on this newcomer with curiosity and skepticism.

I thought: I am not worthy.

I'm surely not the first to think that. Tharp revolutionized dance with her insistence that classical ballet and modern movement need not be antagonists, and over a 40-year career, she's explored that breakthrough idea in a dizzying catalogue of greatest hits. She's choreographed movies. She's had a Broadway hit. She was anointed with a MacArthur Fellowship, the one that certifies you as a "genius". And she's written two books. One is an autobiography,"Push Comes to Shove". The other, "The Creative Habit; Learn It and Use It for Life", is a surprise --- a wise guide for the general reader about harnessing your personal creativity.

It was a book that brought us together. Her new one, "The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together", would be published by Simon & Schuster in November. She'd written enough for several volumes, and would, in time, surely have been able to carve a book out of it. But she was also embarking on a new show --- "Come Fly With Me", a night of dance built around Frank Sinatra songs --- and her time was tight. If the book was to be published on schedule, someone was needed to help her get to the book's finish line.

I have done this work before, with mixed results. In 1986, I collaborated with Roger Enrico, then the CEO of Pepsi Cola. He worked as hard as I did, all the while running a giant company; all these years later, we still get royalties. Less happy was my experience with Kelsey Grammer. I was hired to write his memoir just six weeks before an inflexible deadline; Grammer gave me little time or guidance, and I succeeded only in turning a total disaster into a mere failure.

If I was skittish about signing on to a new collaboration, I had an additional reason --- Twyla Tharp has a reputation as an artist who finds even perfection inadequate; it was easier to picture her as an autocrat than as a collaborator. But I didn't sense that at our first meeting. She grilled me about Balzac, Tolstoy and Proust; I parried to the best of my ability, painfully aware she'd practically memorized every word they'd written. After a half hour of literary tennis, I suspect we were both pleasantly surprised, she that I had read a book or three, me that that her work ethic seemed fairly reasonable.

One thing I should know, she said: She got up early, worked all day, went to bed early. She expected appointments --- ours included --- to begin a few minutes before the appointed hour: "If you're not early, you're late." I said I understood.

And so we began.

There was one table in her office --- a venerable Shaker piece that was sufficiently rare that I quickly learned to put a coaster under my water glass. This work surface was bracketed by two chairs and industrial shelving stacked with a video editing system, stereo equipment and books. Up a few steps was a large empty room: a dance studio and rehearsal space. When she didn't go to the gym --- at 69, she can still bench more weight than I can --- she danced here. It was one of the supreme perks of our time together that she sometimes showed me how the thing was done.

From time to time, I'd look outside and imagine us finishing the book in July, reading the manuscript and sipping iced tea in air-conditioned comfort as the park shimmied in the summer heat. Some days it seemed that time would never come --- Twyla Tharp could be fierce.

Not that she was ever in a grim mood. It was always, "Good morning, Miss Tharp" and "Hello, my sweet" with us --- formal manners delivered with irony and topspin. The thing was, Twyla Tharp is a one-off. She lives in the now, and she does it with a ferocity I've never encountered. I'd bring up some moment from her childhood that stunned or shocked me; she never had an emotional reaction. Stuff happens. It makes you who you are. Move on. Dazzled by her equanimity, I would.

And so we did plowed through her collaborations with Billy Joel, Jerome Robbins, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, David Byrne, Richard Avedon, Milos Forman, Norma Kamali and Frank Sinatra. This required considerable discipline, because this book, even more than its predecessor, is for general readers --- the stories are about dance, but as she often said, "Work is work." And to drive the point home, we dotted the pages with stories of great collaborators: Steve Martin, the Wright Brothers, Marie and Paul Curie. Even the baseball slugger Kirk Gibson makes an appearance.

Who wrote what? She wrote everything. No one has ever worked harder; anything I sent to her would come back marked, edited, revised, improved. Nothing I did could have made her dramatically better; my contribution was to buff and suggest, propose and try, and, on the rare occasion, shoot the moon. Throughout, she could not have been more supportive and appreciative. As her dancers know, a "very nice" from Twyla Tharp is a bit more meaningful than it is from almost anyone else.

There was only one disappointment. The final month of work on the book involved many meetings at her apartment. Only in the July heat did I learn that I wouldn't be sipping iced tea in the air-conditioned office --- because her office opens on to her dance studio, it isn't air-conditioned. Cold air may be good for writers, but it's bad for dancers.

So, with the terrace door open and the hot air blowing through, I swooned. And I sweated. My eyes smarted; the pages of the manuscript were marked with blotches. I can't remember a more physically demanding work environment. Or a more rewarding one --- I worked with a genius, and survived, and now, magically, there's a book
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Collaboration Skills for 21st Century Success 4 Dec. 2009
By Larry Underwood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
From politicians who embrace transparency to progressive CEOs who value employee engagement, it's clear their success is driven by their proficiency at getting others to "buy in" to what they're "selling"; and what they're selling is "trust". By building enough trust, they can usually achieve their goals with a great deal of mutual collaboration. Both parties win when the collaborative process goes smoothly; of course, when it doesn't, the results are rarely favorable.

Twyla Tharp certainly understands this, and has compiled this highly engaging book detailing her personal collaborative experiences. Although most of those experiences have been successful, she's quick to point out some of her less than stellar moments, with her spin on why things didn't go as planned. Her approach is refreshingly candid without blaming others for the problems; like any good collaboration, egos are kept in check. Results are much more favorable when the parties can communicate openly, with no hidden agendas.

This is a most enlightening perspective from an extremely successful person, who's built an entire career on making the most of her collaborative efforts. In this day and age of instant information, practically everyone needs to learn the skills of making collaboration a good habit; one you'd never want to break. Going it alone just won't fly these days.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"In the end, all collaborations are love stories"...at least the best of them are, and they must be 31 Jan. 2012
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As is my custom when a new year begins, I recently re-read this book and The Creative Habit while preparing questions for interviews of thought leaders. The insights that Twyla Tharp shares in them are, if anything, more valuable now than when the books were first published.

It would be a mistake to ignore the reference to "habit" in their titles because almost three decades of research conducted by K. Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University clearly indicate that, on average, at least 10,000 hours of must be invested in "deliberate," iterative practice under strict and expert supervision to achieve peak performance, be it playing a game such as chess or a musical instrument such as the violin. Natural talent is important, of course, as is luck. However, with rare exception, it takes about ten years of sustained, focused, supervised, and (yes) habitual practice to master the skills that peak performance requires.

Tharp is both a dancer and a choreographer and thus brings two authoritative, indeed enlightened perspectives to her discussion of the life lessons for working together. Many of the same requirements for effective collaboration on classic Disney animated films such as Snow White and Pinocchio must also be accommodated when members of an orchestra and of a ballet company collaborate on a performance of Stravinsky's The Firebird.

Tharp characterizes herself as a "career collaborator" who identifies problems, organizes them, and solves them by working with others. Many of the stories she shares in this book "involve the world of dance, but you don't have to know anything about dance to get the pint. Work is work." Her book, she suggests, "is a field guide to a lit of issues that surface when you are working in a collaborative environment." She proceeds to explain why collaboration is important to her - "and, I'll bet, to you." Her narrative is enriched by dozens of memorable anecdotes from her career as dancer/choreographer but almost any reader can identify with her experiences, especially with her struggles.

She addresses subjects and related issues that include

o What collaboration is and why it matters (also what it isn't)
How and why collaborations challenge and change us (for better or worse)
How to work effectively with a "remote" collaborator

Note: Given the latest communication technologies (e.g. Cisco's TelePresence), "remote" does not mean "distant" but physical separation makes mutual respect and trust even more important to those involved.

How to collaborate with an institution by overcoming problems with infrastructure, intermediaries, and a "deeply en grained" culture
How to collaborate with a community (e.g. an audience)
How to collaborate with friends (there's both "good news" and "bad news")

In the final chapter, "Flight School: Before Your Next Collaboration," Tharp stresses the importance of involving others in our efforts. "By standing in our way and confronting us, talking with us as friends [who care enough to tell us what we may not want to hear] or by collaborating with us, other people can help us grind our flaws to more manageable size. For example, my lifelong collaboration with Frank Sinatra." I'll say no more about that. Read the book to learn more.

As is also true of The Creative Habit, this is a book to re-read at least once a year, if not more frequently. Beyond its immense entertainment value, it offers rock-solid advice on collaboration, a human relationship that is more important now than ever before in every area of our society. Thank you, Twyla Tharp, for so much...including the fact that you are Twyla Tharp and share so much of yourself in your books and even more in the art you continue to create. Bravo!

* * *

Twyla Tharp, one of America's greatest choreographers, began her career in 1965, and has created more than 130 dances for her company as well as for the Joffrey Ballet, The New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, London's Royal Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. She has won two Emmy awards for television's Baryshnikov by Tharp program, and a Tony Award for the Broadway musical Movin' Out. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1993 and was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1997. She lives and works in New York City. Her books include Push Comes to Shove: An Autobiography (1992) as well as The Creative Habit and, more recently, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together, also published by Simon & Schuster (2009). The last two are available in a paperbound edition.
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