I recently had a conversation with my sister about preferred relationships and whether we liked to be/work/do things: a) alone, b) with one other person or c) with a group. Both of us chose “b”, with another person. While being alone has its advantages, having a buddy or kind of “co-conspirator” seems to make things better.

I thought of this while reading Lab Girl over the weekend. Scientist Hope Jahren writes about her relationship with her lab partner, Bill: 

Bill and I grinned at each other, knowing that we’d pulled it off, yet again. The whole project was a fine example of how we work together: I cook up a pipe dream, embellish it until it is borderline impossible, pitch and sell the idea to a government agency, purchase the supplies, then dump it all on Bill’s desk. From there, Bill produces a first, a second, and then a third prototype, protesting all the while that the idea is an impossible pipe dream. When his fifth design shows promise, and his seventh works (provided you turn it on while wearing a blue shirt and facing east), we are both seduced by the smell of success.

I thought of all the “Bill’s” that I have been fortunate enough to have in my career, the colleagues who made the journey much more pleasurable and the work more productive. I like someone to push me out of my comfort zone and with whom I can have an honest thought session without trying to impress, and I have been lucky to have those confidantes join forces with me.

What is your preferred setting? If you work best alone or in groups, how can you adjust your work environment to fulfill that? And if you are best with a teammate, are there projects you can work on that allow you that type of collaboration? Knowing your preferred partnership style can make your travels result in a much more pleasant journey.

beth triplett

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, Knopf Publishing, 2016

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