One Friday evening recently, I boarded a flight for home after two intense days facilitating a workshop. Two lads, I guessed in their early twenties, were already sitting in the row where my window seat was. I glanced at them, they nodded and stood up to let me in. I thanked them, sat down and their eyes went back to their phones. I assumed by their appearance and body language that we probably didn’t have much in common so didn’t try to initiate a conversation. Anyway, I was tired and, having had two days full of people, was quietly happy being left alone.
As we pushed back from the terminal the co-pilot started his welcome and flight briefing with the standard stuff then comically told us we should give him loud applause for a soft landing or blame the captain for a bumpy one. Instantly the lad next to me and I looked each other in the eye and shared a laugh! It was spontaneous and reflexive, but in that moment, we connected.
We didn’t become bosom buddies. We chatted briefly then went back to our own thoughts for the rest of the flight but when we landed, we looked at each other again and considered whether or not we should clap the co-pilot. It got me thinking, how powerful our inner drive is to be connected with other people.
We can harness this drive to do great things! In fact, without it we might not achieve anything! In their book “The Knowledge Illusion” Sloman and Fernbach show us that our mind does not exist in our head alone. It also resides in the minds of others, in our environment and the community.
This ‘collective mind’ is the key to the extraordinary success of the human species. What sets us apart from any other animal (including our nearest ape relatives) is the ability to share our intentionality and divide our cognitive labour. From the complex coordination of a bison hunt to the execution of a space mission, mankind has succeeded not through individual performance but through our talent for true collaboration. Everyone understanding their role and playing their part.
Communities of practice experts, Wegner and Traynor observe that, together with a common interest, it is deepening relationships that provide the glue of a successful community of practice. Intuitively we know, if we want to; solve a problem, make a decision, learn and store memories, build or discover something new, we can do it far better if we enlist the help of others.
Central to all of this is our drive to be connected to others. We’re not saying that healthy competition isn’t a good thing. It can provide the impetus to strive to get better. However, it is not until we combine our talents, skills and knowledge, that we achieve greatness.
“Nothing of significance was ever achieved by an individual acting alone. Look below the surface and you will find that all seemingly solo acts are really team efforts.”
— John C. Maxwell
Enjoy what remains of April
Mary and Lab Wilson (the Bats Team)