last thursday at demos
, i did a joint presentation with jeff manza. we tend to give individual talks and develop them independently, so a joint presentation was a rare treat.
i've truly enjoyed working with jeff but i've been extremely fortunate with all
of my collaborators -- undergraduate students, grad students, postdocs, and junior and senior faculty. really! the only times things haven't
worked out, i've
dropped the ball due to preoccupation with other projects. i've written
that good collaborations seem to require complementary skills and enough like-mindedness to vibe together. how can you spot good potential partners?
you can probably learn much of what you need to know about a potential collaborator by (1) reading something they've written; and, (2) sharing a meal. i'll leave the analysis of written work to your own judgment, but this restaurant behavior quiz might offer some insights into criterion number two. i've written the quiz for male collaborators, but you can change the he to she or s/he as needed.
1. did he treat the server decently?
this could be signaling that he treats others with mutual trust and respect
. if he sends back written instructions to the chef about the proper preparation of a cheeseburger, in contrast, he might
try to micromanage your contributions to the project._ rude as hell and a little scary -- like when animals attack: 0 points_ decently, i guess, i didn't really notice: 1 point
_ very understanding, he must've worked in a restaurant: 2 points
2. did he stick you (or, worse, his students) with the check or stiff the server with a tiny tip?
this wouldn't portend generosity
in my book.
it might also mean that he thinks you owe
him something just for hanging out with you. you don't want a collaborator who would minimize your contributions to the project. he should be quick to point out that "my partner really did the heavy lifting here" and, when needed,
"I've gotta shoulder the blame for screwing up on that one."_ he took a call and took off before the check came: 0 points _ split it down the middle and tipped 20 percent: 1 point
_ he paid this one and i'll get the next one: 2 points
_ i took this one and he'll grab the next one: 2 points _ he stuck a fork through my hand when i reached for the check: -3 points
3. did he complain about being chronically overworked?
if so, it could indicate incompatible work styles and ethic
or inadequate time to pick up a new project.
choose a collaborator who has shown some positive energy (e.g., by bringing several other projects home) and/or the proper incentive (e.g., job market, tenure) to finish the project._ he has not slept since 1979: 0 points [yes, this will knock down my score]_ he yawned once but apologized for it, blaming travel fatigue: 1 point
_ he seemed really excited about getting going on the project: 2 points
4. did he rain furious anger down upon colleagues, teachers, and students as soon as they were out of earshot?
uh-oh. this person may not have the patience or compassion
you'll need to get over a rough patch. sometimes life interrupts the most careful plans. you'll feel better working with those willing to forgive your excesses and understand your other (over)commitments._ apparently, he has always been surrounded by idiots and cretins: 0 points_ he really didn't say much about his colleagues or students: 1 point
_ you can see he loves his mentors, colleagues, and students: 2 points
5. did you laugh?
you don't have to launch a lifelong friendship,
but it is nice to work with people whose company you genuinely enjoy. the best collaborators take the work seriously but are comfortable laughing at themselves. social scientists require ego sufficient to get on with our audacious work, but not so much ego that we can't take a step without tripping over it._ he struck me/made me weep/wouldn't let me go to the bathroom: 0 points_ yeah, i think we could probably work together: 1 point
_ i wanna party with you, cowboy: +/- 2 points (sign is up to you)__ total points for questions 1 to 5
0 to 3 points: run. he might make you famous, but notorious is far more likely.4 to 7 points: try email conversation over a few weeks and see how it goes.8 to 10 points: yeah! like jagger and richards, this could be fun.
if this were really
a cosmo quiz, i'd assign cute names and personality types to each collaborator. in this case, you'd have to weight restaurant behavior alongside the quality and creativity of the person's scholarly work. i would have added something about table manners
, but would prefer not
to ponder the meaning of my own atrocious manners. what else have i forgotten?