The complexity of today’s world is daunting. There are no simple responses to the issues of: education, health care, the economy, poverty or many of the other challenges we face. We may want to believe that independent thinking is a how each of us should sort through the complexity.
Yet, I truly believe that we need to think together. Interdependent thinking is not common. Moreover, the concept of truly weaving our thinking together with the thinking of others is challenging. Thinking together is not simple or easy. And, it is something we all can benefit from.
Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman in their chapter – Creating Communities of Thought: Skills, Tasks, and Practices pages 62 & 63, found in The Power of the Social Brain by Costa and O’Leary, Teachers College Press, 2013 write: “Rich, meaningful collaboration is both complex and challenging.
Three compelling reasons for meeting these demands include:
1. The lone genius is a myth.
Regardless of whether the field is physics, biology or linguistics, teams of researchers, not individuals, make scientific breakthroughs. Significant studies are no longer produced by a lone genius like Einstein or Darwin. In fact, papers with at least 100 citations, or “home-run” papers, are more than six times likely to come from teams of scientists. The group is the unit of work. Insight and innovation emerge from interdependent thinking.
2. The most interesting mysteries lie at the intersection of minds.
Novel solutions are necessary to address increasingly complex problems. For example, the study of sustainable agriculture combines the fields of biology, agronomy, sociology, and climatology in a multidisciplinary response to world hunger. Overwhelming problems are too messy for individuals to solve independently. The collective imagination is more expansive than any individual vision. The cross-fertilization of divergent minds generates possibilities beyond the limits of isolated thinkers.
3. Accountability grows out of co-creation.
Collective construction of understanding around data, problems, and plans inspires commitment to action. A greater degree of participation in the genesis of decisions produces a greater likelihood of follow-through. Given the challenges of multiple demands and conflicting priorities, individuals need to make choices about use of their time, attention, and energy. When group membership is valued, the values of the group prevail. Identity as a group member increases accountability to the group and the group’s goals. Our goals become my goals.”
Maybe their thoughts can inspire others to: 1. bust the myth that “some genus is out there and will get us out of this”, 2. get good at contributing to the cross-fertilization of divergent thought to generate new possibilities, and 3. strive to “show up” and be part of and contribute to a collective construction of understanding.