Intelligence + Collaboration [Structure 101]

Education’s ego is writing checks its body can’t cash . . . LITERALLY.

We educate for both economic and cultural purposes. And both economics and culture change over time. Since the pace of change also accelerates, none of us should be surprised that education is struggling to keep up. It’s trying. Teachers are trying. But the paradigm is outdated. To fix it, we have to understand intelligence.

About 130 years after traditional schooling was designed to cultivate academic ability, we learned that intelligence is far more than a measure of academic aptitude. And neuroscientifically speaking, intelligence outside of the academic sphere is equally valuable intelligence. Economically speaking, the same is true. Culturally speaking, we’re still drinking the academic Kool Aid, and we’re psychologically worse off for it.

Neuroscience is pioneering its understanding of learning and is sure of at least this much: We learn through a perpetually dynamic process in which our individual physiological predispositions interact with our social and cultural experiences. Our physiological predispositions probably involve somewhere around eight distinct intelligences, ranging from linguistic to bodily.

Although we know learning involves the body, traditional schooling treats it as a distraction. This makes zero economic sense. Economics is nice, in theory, because it assumes rational choices. But if we were rational, we wouldn’t drug our most creative students, making them less creative in order to help them ‘learn’ when we know that creativity is critical to problem solving.

But we’re humans. We’re not always rational. What’s awesome about humans is that we always try to be rational. As the neuroscience above indicates, ‘rationality’ is culturally transmitted. So it’s imperfect. And that’s generally fine, as long as we progress toward ‘more rational’. But this is tricky when the majority of us find ourselves learning in an institution designed for only a few of the intelligences our brains possess.

If education offered each human the time and space to develop his or her intelligence profile’s existing potential, we might just have a full, innovative economy. Since our ability to translate individual potential into economic potential depends on our cultural values and institutions, we have to escape the myths perpetuated by traditional schools. We have to learn the truth about human motivation, human intelligence, and human competition to learn fast enough for an innovation economy.

Our culture and economy are collective wholes, to which every individual is a part. We need outliers to pull the collective in the direction of progress. So if you’re one of the ones starting to understand and value human intelligence more (and traditional schooling less), collaborate with us. Now. NOW now.

Oh hey. There’s our segue. Collaboration. More innovative power than any individual’s intelligence alone.

It’s better that your dancer go to a dance school than to a pharmacist for a Ritalin prescription, but it’s best that we integrate disciplines. We’d probably all benefit from starting our days with a dance party, right? Sold. And when students are in environments that recognize real value in developing every intelligence profile rather than competing for an academic goal, education becomes more about managing collaboration.

Technology enhances the innovative power of interdisciplinary collaboration. It’s a tool, like our hands. You don’t need to use the tool for everything, and there are probably a few situations in which you specifically don’t want to use the tool. But it’s incredibly versatile and wildly efficient for interacting.

Broadly defined, technology is the process by which it’s become so easy (historically speaking) for humans to meet our basic needs. The narrative about humans being in fierce competition with one another is outdated. Human aggression is not human nature, it’s just an event. An event that can be prevented with the right social institutions. And as technology expands the design potential of our institutions, we have infinitely better human potential.

That talk was recorded in 2005. Four years later, Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize for her work mentioned.

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