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Learning to Let Go: Perfumers and Teamwork

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor
Posted: August 17, 2009
Laurent Le Guernec

Perfumer Laurent Le Guernec

Read more formulation insights from IFF perfumer Laurent Le Guernec and colleagues Carlos Benaim and Pascal Gaurin in P&F magazine’s September feature, “Comparing Notes.”

"In today’s world, because you work so fast, you have to work as a team,” says perfumer Laurent Le Guernec of IFF. Growing teamwork means multiple perfumers collaborate on projects, and Le Guernec acknowledges not everyone is comfortable with such a change in culture. Still, he maintains that perfumers are perhaps a bit more trusting of each other than in previous eras. “Today, it’s an open book,” he says. “People share a lot … We share the win at the end.”

The addition of multiple points of view benefits the process, he adds, eliminating some of the myopia one may find in a “single-author” system. One perfumer may have a solution that another was unable to see due to being too close to the project. “You learn a lot, and fast,” says Le Guernec. “The difficult thing in working on a team is you have to let go,” he adds, pointing out that perfumers are bound to occasionally lose a beloved aspect of a formula in the course of team-oriented collaboration. “If you want to keep it, explain why,” he says. “But don’t keep it for the wrong reason: Because you put it in and somebody took it out.” For many—perhaps all—perfumers it is difficult to cede one’s creative sovereignty, but Le Guernec keeps in mind that the team’s overall success is always goal one. “If it works, let it go. What you end up with won’t be less creative, but the main idea may be different. It can be even more beautiful.”

He adds, “If you can work as a team, you’re unbeatable.”