What does the Tinchy Stryder and Chuckle Brother single tell us about creative collaborations?

[Written in October 2014 for 53 Million Artists Blog]

The recently unveiled collaboration between Tinchy Stryder and The Chuckle Brothers has gone viral in less than a week, clocking up over a million hits on YouTube. One of the reasons that it has gone viral is the unlikely nature of the collaboration – a young grime artist from East London rapping with a geriatric duo who made ChuckleVision, a children’s comedy TV show.

According to the video description, Tinchy met The Chuckle Brothers while filming for Celeb Juice and really hit it off so decided to record something in the studio. The resulting song, ‘To Me, To You (Bruv)’ was released through the online youth broadcasting platform SBTV with all proceeds going to charity.

Although there are jokes abounding on the internet about potential future collaborations with Rosie and Jim or the cast of Saved By The Bell and other 90s TV icons, there is something quite distinctive about the creative energy produced in putting together two unlikely collaborators.

We tend to be drawn to the image of the lone genius who brings insight or a particular kind of creative flair to the world. However, research has shown that the lone genius is a myth and instead it’s partnerships or groups that generate breakthroughs.

In Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration (2008), Dr Keith Sawyer, lists 7 key characteristics of effective creative teams. These are:

  1. Innovation Emerges Over Time – no single actor comes up with everything, every person contributes something.
  2. Successful Collaborative Teams Practice Deep Listening – most people spend too much time planning their own actions and not enough time listening and observing others.
  3. Team Members Build on Their Collaborators’ Ideas – when teams practice deep listening, each new idea is an extension of the ideas that have come before.
  4. Only Afterwards Does the Meaning of Each Idea Become Clear – creative actions take on meaning later.
  5. Surprising Questions Emerge – transformative creativity occurs when groups think in new ways.
  6. Innovation is Inefficient – Improvise rather than evaluate and judge. Improvised innovation makes more mistakes and has as many misses as hits. But the hits can be phenomenal and thus make up for the efficiency and failures.
  7. Innovation Emerges from the Bottom Up – Improvisational performances are self-organizing.

As we can see, the Tinchy Stryder and Chuckle Brothers collaboration embodies many of Sawyer’s characteristics of successful creative teams. Perhaps one of the reasons the artists kept the partnership a secret is because of the tendency of people to judge and shoot down ideas rather than see them through. As Sawyer notes, when you take risks and improvise, it can lead to phenomenal hits.