The Power of the Pair

Team collaboration What's a creative pair? We are! Jess and I work in the same department, on the same project, from a shared office. We were beginning to think our personal overlap was getting out of hand when we started reading about creative pairs and decided to fully embrace our collaboration instead. Our workmates think it's funny when we finish each other's sentences, but tendencies like shared language contribute to our increased productivity as a pair. Just like in this quote from Joshua Wolf Shenk's book (linked below), "When we go back and forth, our ideas, our ambitions, our efficiency, our ability - everything gets bigger. The more we overlap, the larger we become, much larger than we were as two individuals” (p. 51), when it comes to Jess and me 1 + 1 does not equal 2. It equals something like 2.5 or 3. 

Creative pairs challenge the conventional structures of the lone genius and the all-powerful team. Pairs--who begin to talk, think, and be like one another the more they interact--are able to utilize transactive memory, balance each other professionally and emotionally, and are often praised for their compounded productivity. The relationship between two people in a creative pair has proven powerful, and organizations have the opportunity to capitalize on their collaborative accomplishments.

Does this sound like you and a colleague? Here are some of our best recommendations for working collaboratively with a partner or a team.

Recommended Reading

Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity, Joshua Wolf Shenk

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, Clive Thompson

Recommended Tools


A perfect app for keeping a team of two (or more!) on track for tasks and projects. Uses a visual sticky-notes-in-columns setup. Checklists allow for the EXTREMELY satisfying experience of checking tasks off when complete.

Google Docs & Google Slides

We've all known about Google Docs for a while. Basic cloud-based word processing with ACTUAL real-time collaborative editing. Now check out Slides for the same experience creating slide decks with a partner or team. Comments, Group Chat, and Suggestion Mode are indispensable. Our most recent favorite feature: quickly locate your editing compatriot in the Doc or Slide deck by clicking their icon in the top corner. Zing! There they are.

Skype or Google Hangouts

Your pair (or team) doesn’t need to be in the same geographic location to keep in sync. Choose your favorite tool for audio and video conferencing and instant messaging. Then use the same one consistently to build up a searchable record of your conversations and all those links you'll be sending back and forth. Transactive memory, enabled by technology.

Zotero Groups

This cool feature of the citation manager Zotero allows your team to build a shared library of research sources, tag them, and use discussion threads. We are SO into this right now.


A super simple, super zoomable outlining app. Good for keeping your writing distraction-free. We use it to outline e-learning content, and you can share and edit collaboratively.


Basically, this desktop app/phone app/browser plug-in will organize your whole life. Save articles and items from anywhere on the Internet, annotate and tag them, make notes and to-do lists, word process, the list goes on and on. The more stuff you save in Evernote, the more useful it gets.


Keep track of allllll the pieces of the Internet you love to read. Feedly aggregates various blogs and news sites for you (remember Google Reader? This is the new that.) and then makes is really easy to share content back and forth with friends. It even works for academic journals that post new issues on a webpage. Use it to find things to add to your team's Zotero Group!

Recommended Practices

  • Working in the same space (shared office, co-work space, or virtual hangout)
  • Collaborative editing
  • Co-note taking
  • Shared accomplishment tracking
  • Friendship : )

Are you one half of a creative pair? What are your favorite collaboration tools?