Tl;dr: The Powers of Two by Shenk

I had a mentorish advisor once to whom I brought a tough problem. My cofounder was not going to make it to the next level — the company had to change a ton and this person was becoming an obstacle. For a year I had been dragging this person with me and having endless calls to re-sync on feelings and worries. But I had to be loyal right? Was it not my duty to make a partnership that would last a long long time? Like Buffet and Munger?

My mentor said: “How many of those are there? Just that one?”

I couldn’t think of any. I took out my cofounder shortly thereafter.

It is perhaps 10-20 years late but here we go:

Read my highlights from Powers of Two

Reading Powers of Two

35 new photos added to shared album

Munger and Buffet

Magic and Bird

Pierre and Marie Curie

Lennon and McCartney

Abernathy and MLK

Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton

De Beauvoire and Sartre

Marina Abramovic and Ulay

Crick and Watson

Jobs and Woz

Gates and Ballmer

Matisse and Picasso

Van Gogh and his brother Theo Van Gogh

Orville and Wilbur Wright

It continues. Of course this book is the first place I have ever seen an effort to collect all the great pairs, since most efforts are about the mythical Lone Genius.

Shenk wants to argue there arent any lone geniuses, but his strategy is an argument from induction (show that every single genius had a collaborator, one by one). He doesn’t get there in this book. (Tesla? Augustine? Philip Pettit (tightrope guy), Cezanne?) (Originally I had Nietszche on this list – but he got me, Salome, the muse.)

He does show that duos can he dynamic, and he expands the definition helpfully.

Your partner may not be forever, may be a rival or antagonist, a complement or a prompt. In all cases essential.

So here is the options framework for partnerships:

  1. Star and Director. Both important, one famous.
  2. Structureberg and Jokestein. Straight man/organized and color/punchline sharpshooter. Both important.
  3. Inspiration and Perspiration. Dreams and Doings.
  4. Turn-Taking. Trading the hot hand. Rewriting each other.
  5. Yin and Yang. Opposites, complements.
  6. The Other and Inner/Outer inspiration. Someone who helps you be you.

So what to do with this framework? I would suggest starting by labeling your partnerships. Which is which? Do they work as desired?

That cofounder I had to take out was selected by me to be the Star, so that I could help behind the scenes and push further. Turned out it had to be the other way around, with me as Star. I had never done it before. And I had to find a Director. Much later, I did.