The Space Between Us: An Approach to Collaborative Innovation

The Space Between Us: An Approach to Collaborative Innovation

In our zeal for freedom and autonomy we have lost our connectedness not only to each other but also to nature and to life itself. Splendid individuality has become “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” and the buried fear and rage of reclusive teenagers depicted in “Bowling for Columbine”. In fact, in a book published last year entitled “Loneliness – the Unrecognized Sickness,” Prof. Manfred Spitzer, a leading psychiatrist and neuroscientist, claims that loneliness is actually now the leading cause of death in the West, though this is hidden because loneliness kills indirectly by making people much more susceptible to cancer, heart attack, stroke, depression and even dementia.

However, to be clear, I am not suggesting that we throw out the remarkable achievements of the Enlightenment. Having a looser relationship to one’s own identity should in no way be understood as a denial of individuality. On the contrary, it should be seen as an enhancement and a further development of the original intentions of those 18th Century philosophers. Their dream was of a free thinking human being capable of being guided by reason towards ethical action. To the extent that one can have a point-of-view rather than be trapped in it, one is autonomous and free even from one’s own inherited and in part socially constructed opinions. On the other hand, to be caught up in one’s point-of-view is, of course, the essence of an identity; it is to be trapped in one’s own history and condemned to live out one’s life as a character in a story limited by the plotline of his or her autobiography.

And what is true at the level of individual is also true at every larger level of human social structure: relationship, family, organization, community and society. The fact is we need collaborative innovation at each of these levels if we are to meet the current challenges of being human. As a fall out of these challenges, so far mostly in the West but increasingly everywhere, people at every level have become so polarized that genuine and productive dialogue has become increasingly strained if not impossible. Certainly, we remain quite good at innovation with regard to our technology and our business models, but hardly at all with regard to how we conceive of ourselves. In fact, we seem to have lost interest in the oldest and most productive questions of our species: “Who are we?” and “Why are we here?”


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About the Author

David NorrisDr. David Norris has worked for more than forty years as a college teacher, manager, international consultant and coach, leading programs for individuals, teams and organizations. His clients operate in North America, Europe, Australia, India and the Middle East. He currently lives in Germany and works in both English and German. Underlying all of his work is a commitment to human maturation. Jean Piaget, among others, researched the stages of human development from the “Uroboros” of infancy to the conceptual thinking of young adulthood. Most of these researchers stop there with a command of logic and the achievement of emotional impulse control. But human development does not necessarily end there. David believes there is a post-rational kind of consciousness, which is now emerging within our species and he believes it’s possible to facilitate that emergence. And just as individuals can grow and mature, so too can organizations.

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