I’ve had some ancillary exposure to impressive and effective collaboration methods, including attending a one-day session of Non-Violent Communication (last I heard, the headquarters were based near here in Albuquerque), and volunteering for Creativity for Peace, an organization uses a similar method called Compassionate Listening. The latter brings together Israeli and Palestinian teenage girls for a three week camp in Northern New Mexico every summer. It’s eye-opening to see the depth of distrust between the girls when they arrive contrasted with the deep friendships formed after such a short time together.
Of course, there are many, many other collaboration methods about which I will claim no expertise but will offer anyway this judgement on the current state of collaborative arts: some methods are highly rewarding and effective when you can convince the people who need it to participate. Others easily degenerate into frustration, or else make you feel good but don’t actually do anything. (See Group Collaboration, Jazz Style).
The various methods of dialog and collaboration, especially in situations of conflict, have in my opinion the common feature of trying to diffuse or bypass human ego, “my hurts”, “my pain”, “my complaints”, “my knowledge”, us vs. them, etc. Indeed, the methods that don’t address the humanity of everyone involved may seem to work, may feel like they work, but ultimately don’t produce much in the way of change, insight, or innovation. Paul Paulus demonstrated this in his brainstorming research.
The Future of Collaboration
What I’d like to see is the application of a next generation of collaborative methods, not that the ones we have don’t work, but they are inefficient, requiring lots of effort with small groups. As a way forward, I’m thinking of the weird effects seen in the so-called “wisdom of crowds”, as popularized by Suroweki. The problem is that in this method no one gets any credit, nor a feeling of “we overcame our differences through hard work”; instead, the ego is completely set aside. But the reported results of a 20% improvement over expert panels is impressive.
When I say “wisdom of crowds”, I’m thinking of a large population with some “noise” introduced, i.e. naive users, which enlarges the solution space away from the closest, more traditional solutions and including more distant and often more optimum ones. Secondly, a population which has no means of influencing each other, no politics or polarization. Maybe this describes crowd sourcing in general? And what about predictive markets? Have they confirmed the promise of the “wisdom of crowds” method?
Where Can You Apply This?
For example, can this kind of crowd sourcing be used in research to speed the time to publishing of papers? In education to manage MOOCs?
- Ron Newman