When I was about 10 years old, I remember watching the first Transformers movie with my dad. Being a young kid, my focus was heavily on aesthetics, cool effects, and the insane battles that the robots had with one another. Although, (I’m sure that whatever your age is) if something like this is of interest to you, you too would be in awe of everything going on in the movie. I was so intrigued by how amazing the robots were and the action going on throughout the movie.
At the end of the movie, my dad asked me, “So, what did you learn?” My face was blank; I didn’t understand why he asked me that question. I thought to myself, couldn’t he see it from everyone’s face? I mean, the movie was great. So I said, “Well, I think that robots are cool and can be good friends for people.” After I said that, all he did was chuckle, and after a brief pause, said, “Interesting, well for me, I learned that good will always prevail over evil.” It was a moment of wisdom from father-to-son, and it may be simple, but it still has a huge impact on me until this day. All it took was one simple sentence.
I would often reminisce about that moment, as well as other memories of my father pouring wisdom into my young and curious mind. I understand that since I was young, I might not have the capacity to acknowledge many concepts fully. “Reading between the lines” or “looking at the bigger picture” were not concepts I was familiar with. As I’ve grown older, I became aware of these things and, as a result, able to develop critical thinking skills.
The Concept of Collaboration
As human beings, we are constantly learning. I’m sure if you read any scientific articles or reports regarding our minds, you’ll be able to conclude that the human brain is capable of doing amazing things. This leads me to my next point. As powerful as it is, it would still need guidance to foster intellectual creativity, whether new knowledge, ideas, or anything. We won’t always know everything. We often would need to look up the information, figure it out as we go, or learn it from someone else. Oftentimes, we work together with others to find a breakthrough. The term I am referring to is collaboration.
One aspect that will forever be a part of the learning process is collaboration. Since we’re all social beings, we learn when surrounded by others, discussing the same topics. In education, collaborative learning supports this innate need of students: getting feedback regarding their progress and finding answers. In the workplace and other areas, collaboration is a buzzword. Working with people who have different perspectives or areas of expertise can result in better ideas and outcomes.
Why is Collaboration Necessary?
A growing part, according to Jones’s research, is that our individual knowledge base is becoming more and more specialized.
“There’s more and more to know in the world, and you can only have so much in your head. So the share of stuff you know as an individual is declining in any field.”
Jones referenced the Wright Brothers as an example. In 1903, two men designed and flew an airplane. Today, a Boeing 787 has dozens of specialists working on the engines alone. Not to mention the controls, hydraulics, and the airframe itself. “There’s just so much going on in designing, building, and flying that plane,” Jones says. “There is an incredible range of specialized skills.” This means that it is unlikely to build a plane today as an aviation generalist. It is the collaboration among all those specialists that gets it off the ground.
The same goes for teams at other factories or offices. This increasing specialization of skills means that you need bigger groups and their specialized skills to succeed.
“Over time, this is an ongoing, never-ending phenomenon of increased specialization, which is ever-increasing the demand for collaboration. In everything, teams beat solo. In the 1950s and 60s, in lots of fields, solo beat teams. It’s flipped. Now teams always have a higher home-run probability than solo.”
What can organizations do to encourage the next breakthrough product or idea? How can they ensure that little bit of spice, that teaming up of specialists in new ways?
One possible method is to literally make space for people to meet potential collaborators they may not otherwise run into.
“Pixar designed its headquarters in California with all the bathrooms in the center of the building, and all the food and coffee in the center in an atrium. They were very intentional about wanting people who are artists and animators, and the coders, and the music people, and the screenwriters to be constantly bumping into each other in random ways to spark ideas. You’re bumping into people and you’re having conversations that you wouldn’t otherwise have. I’m talking to a finance person, to a marketing person, to a sociologist.”
Technology in Action
However, it can be quite difficult in the midst of a global pandemic — and sometimes even risky — to come together and collaborate. Technology changes that. It can support and enhance collaborative learning efforts. After all, exchanging ideas is the basis of collaboration. Using a collaborative learning platform allows us to learn something new, or as we call it here at ecoText: that “next thing.”
We foster collaboration and nurture efficiency by providing the ability to capture your notes, share insights with others, and even create citations right within the margins of any source material: textbook, recipe, specification, article — the sky is the limit.
Collaborative learning is a pedagogy backed by long-standing, proven learning science findings that can easily be implemented in a remote learning context. When people come together, collaboration is unleashed through teamwork and sharing of ideas.
As correctly pointed out by Henry Ford, “Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress.” So let’s all progressively share and learn. Someone out there could make you learn that next thing, just like my father did with one simple sentence.