The Rise of the New Groupthink

| August 29, 2012

The Rise of the New Groupthink – NYTimes.com

I like this discussion, but it misses a key perspective. Cain make a bit of a straw man out of the pro-groupwork crowd. Fair enough, there are plenty of reasons to push back. But here’s my spin: cut the part about “creativity” and there are many reasons to get better at working together.

I find it unhelpful that in trying to set her view apart from the so-called New Groupthink crowd, Cain goes even further to reify the importance of creativity. I like creativity, I do. But I think it’s helpful to read this article and replace variations of “creation” with a simpler notion of “production.” It strikes a different tone – and it falls a bit flat. For example:

If you look at how Mr. Wozniak got the work done — the sheer hard work of creating something from nothing — he did it alone. Late at night, all by himself.

Becomes:

If you look at how Mr. Wozniak got the work done — the sheer hard work of producing something — he did it alone. Late at night, all by himself.

Wow, he produced something alone. Even if it’s a very special thing, we know his work was likely supported in many other ways. Paying attention to the importance of “creativity” emphasizes how much Cain relies on a special meaning that should be cast in doubt.

By default, people are pretty bad at working together. Especially on difficult problems, I think. I like the idea that schools and workplaces are trying to emphasize the importance of collaboration and asking people to practice. Such efforts might not result in outcomes we’d consider creative. That’s OK.

No one wants better collaboration to come at the cost of drowning out individual gains in learning, but perhaps it’s worth some displacement of individual achievement?