I’ve been thinking a lot about collaboration and creativity this week.

Under lockdown, these are the two aspects of life I’ve focused on. They bring together my natural instincts to think outside the box and work with other people. I thought they’d provide a framework to keep me sane, but it turns out they offered a new lens on how and why I work too.

I’ve had access to a vast global network of talented people for years now. But it feels like it took the whole world stopping for a couple of months to think about what that really means and its potential.

Over the last eight weeks, I’ve launched more creative, cross-border projects than I have in at least the past four years. They’ve been unexpected too—based on people clustering around an initiator’s idea and getting started.

Examples from my work:

  • Developing online learning materials for a global nonprofit, which is also a distributed organisation.
  • Launching an industry newsletter for maverick hoteliers.
  • Designing a new subscription service to help exceptional people build a sustainable writing habit.

My only goal during the pandemic has been to try to make something every day, and to celebrate it when I do. These collaborative projects have helped me establish new habits and tap into my flow state, which has fuelled my creativity in book writing too.

Reflecting on this led me to think about some important questions:

  • What makes a good collaboration?
  • What infrastructure or support do we need to do our best work?
  • Is being distributed across different geographies and timezones an advantage rather than a challenge?
  • How do people build vibrant, meaningful careers as creatives without sacrificing their values?

Today’s newsletter explores some of those ideas. As always, hit reply to share your thoughts—I’d love to hear from you.


The Big Idea: 21st Century Guilds

There’s little in the way of infrastructure for freelancers, distributed workers, knowledge workers or digital nomads today. As these types of work grow, we’ll need new institutions to support people: to develop and accredit their skills, to provide a collective voice and to build valuable professional standards and networks.

That brings me to this week’s big idea: guilds for the internet era.

Guilds were an association of artisans or merchants who oversaw the practice of their craft or trade within a set geographic location. They date back to the Roman Empire, and they resembled many things: trade unions, cartels, professional associations and even secret societies. Part of their lasting legacy is guildhalls—the historic meeting places still found in most British towns and cities.

Guilds fell out of favour around the 18th century. The people running them chose greed, corruption and racketeering, and so the guild system was eventually abandoned. Conceptually, though, guilds seem like a good idea. So:

  • What would it take to create the modern, digital equivalent of a guild?
  • What lessons can we take from what already exists?
  • What does a guild imagined from scratch look like now, with the power of the internet at our fingertips?

I’d love to hear what “infrastructure” you need or already use in your professional life, or whether something like modern guilds already exists in your part of the world. I’m always fascinated by putting old ideas into new contexts like this.

👏 Share this Post

Maker of the Week: Alice Daisy Pomfret

This week’s maker is Alice Daisy Pomfret—a designer, publisher, entrepreneur and campaigner based in Norwich, UK. Fresh out of art school in 2018, Alice crowdfunded Akin: a gorgeous print publication and pop-up magazine shop, which she’s been running ever since.

Last year, Alice also launched ‘good: shop’, a pop-up retail experience encouraging consumers to boycott Black Friday and buy local instead. Somehow, she also finds time to run local events for freelancers too.

As impressive as all that is, what I admire the most about Alice is her bold, fearless attitude. She dives into things, follows her gut, and learns as she goes. Her instinct is to make good shit, not wait around for somebody else’s permission. Alice is a living reminder of what’s possible when you just fucking do it.

🌐 Visit Website

Handpicked for You

📚 The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

After the massive shake-up of work culture recently, everybody’s thinking about how to collaborate better. In this book, Daniel Coyle explores what makes groups tick: what influences people to trust each other and work together effectively, how this aids their innovation and problem-solving, and how some of the world’s best teams (e.g. Google, Pixar, US Navy SEALs) put everything into action. Many useful ideas.

🎧 Monocle Profile: Richard Russell, XL Recordings

Richard Russell is a British music industry legend. He joined XL Recordings as an A&R scout back in 1991 and has since built a globally-renowned record label. He’s worked with Adele, Radiohead, Prodigy and Sigur Ros, and amassed a personal fortune of over £75 million. This podcast interview (~30 mins) sees Richard deep-dive into music production, book writing and navigating a creative career.

📅 How To Grow A Resilient Freelance Business

I’m teaming up with pals Anna Codrea-Rado (reporter for NY Times, Wired etc) and Ebony-Storm Halladay (virtual assistant to journalists, editors and authors) for a Zoom conversation on resilience, future-proofing and business growth for freelancers. It’s happening this Wednesday at 3pm UK time. Tickets are free, but we only have a handful left, so grab one quick if you fancy joining us.

Support Counterflows

Each week, I curate stories, ideas, tools and resources for curious people around the world. All the content featured in these emails and on laurenrazavi.com is available for free to everyone.

If you enjoy what I publish, show your support by sending me a virtual coffee from time to time:

☕ Buy Me A Coffee

Here are some other ways you can help out:

  1. Forward this email to a friend and tell them to sign up.
  2. Spread the word about Counterflows on social media.
  3. Say hello! Hit reply to share your thoughts and feedback.

Thanks for reading 🙏