Collaboration by difference

Cathy Davidson writes about Collaborative Learning drawing on her book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. It’s a lively discussion of her experiments in redesigning education for the internet age, and some of the old school resistance to it – including some of her own.

This bit in particular caught my eye. She describes the now-famous spot-the-gorilla experiment to illustrate human attention blindness. She then talks about a way of seeing collaboration:

We used a method that I call “collaboration by difference.” Collaboration by difference is an antidote to attention blindness. It signifies that the complex and interconnected problems of our time cannot be solved by anyone alone, and that those who think they can act in an entirely focused, solitary fashion are undoubtedly missing the main point that is right there in front of them, thumping its chest and staring them in the face.

In the world of meetings, there are usually lots and lots of gorillas. What easily happens is that different people spot different ones and find it hard to credit that others have different views. People become impatient in the “groan zone” and assume that if only everyone would admit to the superiority of their perspective, things could all move forward in an orderly manner.

One manifestation of this attitude is the person with some clever process for getting “alignment”. This process typically involves lots of multicoloured post-it notes being clustered, with the person herself playing a leading role in that organisation, usually holding forth on complexity theory and looking very pleased with herself at the end, insincerely congratulating the audience on her achievement.

I get more interested in ways to hold the similarities and differences and not needing it all tidied up so quickly.

Hat tip: @timekord

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