The Space Between Us: An Approach to Collaborative Innovation
We live in extraordinary times. I suppose every generation has thought so, but in fact, ours is the first to be confronted with existential crises of such a magnitude that we might consider humanity to be on the endangered species list. In our past history on this planet we have always succeeded in dealing with critical challenges through innovation produced by flashes of insight. And now more than ever exactly that is what is needed. Through experience and observation, we know that collaboration does inspire and support innovation, but we don’t really know exactly why or how. We do have familiar aphorisms that point to the phenomenon, such as “two heads are better than one;” but while we accept this as true, it doesn’t account for the phenomenon itself. In this article I will propose an approach towards explaining it, as well as several key questions underlying that approach.
The Story Telling Animal
Human being is often referred to as the story telling animal. Not only did we once tell stories to the other members of the clan gathered around the fire, we still tell stories about the Universe, about the God or gods we believe created it and also about ourselves. And sometimes we get so lost in our own stories that we no longer know they are stories. We then relate to each other and to ourselves as characters in that narrative and to the narrative itself as if it described an independently existing fixed reality. When that happens, we become captives of the story and feel more like the victims of a world apparently out of control than the inventors of that world. In fact, some observers even have expressed the belief that we are already past the point of no return. It’s not just the decline of the West that Oswald Spengler prophesied, but conceivably the potential end of life as we know it for all of us.
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