Collaboration and Clobberation

Paul Fairweather
3 min readJul 29, 2023

I have been thinking about collaborations.

Common salt — Sodium Chloride NaCl, a perfect marriage made in hell! When sodium and chlorine are combined, the reaction is exothermic, producing a bright flame and lots of heat. But the resulting Ionic compound is the salt of the earth (and sea), a substance that has been pivotal to civilisation. Like many successful collaborations, the sum of the parts is often more effective than the individual sections. But often partnerships or teams go through stages of volatility before settling down into a useful enterprise.

In common salt, the ratio of sodium and chloride is 1:1. However, sodium has a g/mol of 22.99, and chloride has 35.45. So while the ions show up equally, they add different weight to the partnership.

WEDDING BAND original Watercolor Paul Fairweather 2020

Marriage is one of the great collaborations of all time. It might start between two people but extends to include families, kids and friends.

Not always easy, but so rewarding if you stick at it.

While not true for all two-part epoxy adhesives, Araldite requires equal parts of A and B, or it won’t set.

This equality is also true for many a collaboration, requiring equal effort from all parties. If one party is too dominant, then often the partnership is unfulfilling, never setting of that reaction that is crucial to transformation. While I have had many successful and productive collaborations, I have also experienced ones where there has been an overdose of ego, resulting in what I call CLOBBERATION.

In a collaboration where one person dominates, I think of it as clobberation. The hammer is a fitting metaphor.

As the old saying goes, if you are a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. While together the job gets done, and often with excellent efficiency “we nailed it!”, sometimes it is not such an exceptional experience for the old nail who gets whacked on the head. Swinging a hammer without skill, the nail can get bent out of shape. And once it is embedded, it is at times challenging to get a nail out. It is a very one-way interaction, as are unsuccessful collaborations.

A screw and a screwdriver are maybe a better metaphor for collaboration, thought the cliche is more appropriate for clobberation “Getting Screwed!” The beauty of this tool and fastener is that they are both a combination of simple machines. The driver is a wheel and axle, and a screw is an inclined plane and a wedge. And these days there are plenty of self-tapping screws, suggesting that they are adding to some of the efforts.

Finally, with a screw, it is easy to undo if it is not all not going to plan!

How do you show up in collaboration? Here are some things to think about when you collaborate.

Don’t be so attached to your ideas and don’t go in swinging.

Let go, and don’t see every problem in collaboration as if you are a hammer.

Remember, to turn up with equality, but remember that we all have different values, and we all have different parts to play. A cant hold it together unless B shows up.

And remember, always mix well with others.