I recently viewed the video: “Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From.” Johnson is the author of a book by the same name; in this book he addresses the need for people to have better ideas, to be more innovative, and to be creative. He looks for environments which set the stage for intellectual breakthroughs. Hint: you don’t need to be bathing in Syracuse to have your Eureka moment. In fact, Archimedes moments are few and far between…
Johnson’s research suggests that spaces and environments which lead to good ideas have recurring themes of connection and collaboration. Often people have thoughts, or hunches, which linger and slowly develop in their minds for extended periods of time. When enough of these “slow hunches” collide with other slow hunches, good ideas are formed. Breakthroughs happen, and quite often, the collision is with another person’s slow hunch.
To allow these collisions to take place, people need spaces to connect, share, interact, and improve upon each other’s ideas. This is authentic collaboration. The Coffee Houses in the Enlightenment and Parisian Salons of Modernism were such places where people met, shared their respective slow hunches, and they collaborated to have breakthrough moments. Universities, Schools, Research Labs, Think Tanks, Silicon Valley, Winnipeg’s Innovation Alley, etc – all take advantage of like-minded individuals wanting to connect, share, and develop good ideas through discussion, interaction, and collaboration.
As educators, we need to create space for hunches to collide. We need to teach, model, and develop collaborative skill capacity within our students. Through face to face conversation, snapchat, twitter, skype, email, telephone calls – whatever it is, we need to create the spaces for students to connect, collaborate, and innovate.