Keith Sawyer provides interesting commentary on a recent article on what could be the overuse / overstatement of collaboration and the undervaluing of solitude (see: The Rise of the New Groupthink – NYTimes.com http://nyti.ms/xII4NF). I think he has some good points to make, but I also agree that there is much we can gain from working independently when the time is right. The key is determining those times when we need to come together to solve problems or develop new ideas and when it is best to find solitude and reflect independently.
I’ve just read a New York Times article by Susan Cain, author of the forthcoming book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It’s the frustrated cry of a true introvert. Cain is clearly tired of everyone touting the benefits of collaboration; some people, herself included, just want to be left alone. And, she argues, those are the people who really come up with all of the great ideas.
There’s a grain of truth to Cain’s claim: Psychologists who study creativity know that it requires both solitude and collaboration. Exceptional creativity involves a lot of hard work, and that often happens in solitude. But Cain misses the big picture: Researchers have found that breakthrough ideas are largely due to exchange and interaction, and that’s because breakthrough ideas always involve combinations of very different ideas. (Matt Ridley famously calls it “ideas having sex.”)
In 2007, my book
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