To be (together) or not to be (together)…. That is the question…


I’ve been thinking about collaboration recently or, more specifically, collaboration as part of  design, innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity.

A couple of years ago, the Year 6 students at Willow Park explored ideas of entrepreneurship and, as a part of the process, we had many interesting people come in and talk to us. One of these people was a highly successful entrepreneur who has many commonly known brands and products under his belt. He talked to the students about how he generated ideas, which was very much an individual process. He gave the analogy of how grown ups come up with their best ideas while they are in the shower, because that’s often the only quiet thinking time they get! Mr Entrepreneur then went on to explain that he made a point of going for frequent solitary walks, without even the dog to keep him company. He did this to have time to think, reflect and generate ideas. When you think about it, the whole idea of entrepreneurship is fairly individual. Mention the word and you think, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson etc. etc… rarely whole companies or groups of people.

Yet we also know that no one individual could run one of these companies entirely on their own. We also know that think tanks and so forth are used commonly to generate ideas that no one person could have on their own. Would Apple be where it is today without bringing together different skill sets that built on Steve Jobs’ brilliance?

So my question is this – How do we allow for both independent thinking and collaborative idea generation in our classes? What about teachers? When do they get time to stop and think; as well as connect and collaborate? Whose responsibility is this to make this happen?- The individual or the school?

I also wonder if we can develop a better understanding of when it is best to collaborate and when it is best to work individually; both in terms of the task at hand and the individual involved. I’m thinking that perhaps we need to allow that lone creative genius time and permission to ponder alone. I’m also thinking of the video “I choose C” – Are we creating students who are too reliant on their peers and can’t stand on their own two feet when necessary?

Like anything, I think it’s a balancing act. We don’t want to swing too far in any one direction as too much collaboration or too much of a individual focus could be potentially detrimental.

I think it is also a matter of building self awareness. I know that I personally like to hatch an idea and add some depth to it on my own, then share and collaborate to take that idea to the next level. But I’m sure not everyone works like this, so how do we build capacity in students to understand how their creative processes work?


3 thoughts on “To be (together) or not to be (together)…. That is the question…

  1. Good question. As a High School teacher who has run Young Enterprise for many years I have found that the companies that have done really well have always had a charismatic individual who can generate ideas and engage with others to get the job done. This individual I have found is a thinker and ideas person but not one who likes detail that they leave for others. As for myself, I do a lot of road bike riding and it is often when I generate my own ideas. I like to be by myself.

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