Group Think and the Creative Leap

I don’t read the newspaper all that much and when I do, it’s usually when I’m traveling since I find it as a nice way to clear my head, pass the time and catch up on a few nuggets of interesting news.  My favorite newspaper is definitely The Wall Street Journal, hands down.  I’m not a finance nerd, but I just find the other reporting across the paper to be truly excellent.

During my travel back from Florida to Connecticut, I bought the Saturday/weekend edition of the Journal on my Kindle and there was a very cool piece entitled “Humans: Why They Triumphed“.  The intro of the essay starts off as follows:

Human evolution presents a puzzle. Nothing seems to explain the sudden takeoff of the last 45,000 years—the conversion of just another rare predatory ape into a planet dominator with rapidly progressing technologies. Once “progress” started to produce new tools, different ways of life and burgeoning populations, it accelerated all over the world, culminating in agriculture, cities, literacy and all the rest. Yet all the ingredients of human success—tool making, big brains, culture, fire, even language—seem to have been in place half a million years before and nothing happened. Tools were made to the same monotonous design for hundreds of thousands of years and the ecological impact of people was minimal. Then suddenly—bang!—culture exploded, starting in Africa. Why then, why there?

The reason was the notion of the “collective brain” through the exchange of culture, ideas, trade, etc. In places where there were increased amount of human interaction (especially across a wider cross-section of people), there was the chance for a greater or even a sudden leap forward for humanity, even after millions of years of little or no progress.

I think this has a very telling from the standpoint of our own personal creativity and how it can flow in our own lives – the exposure to different people, thoughts, ideas and creations. Each of these things can serve as a catalyst to new thoughts for each of us.


What I find most interesting is how this can relates to the overall idea of diversity.  Often the discussion of diversity in our modern life talks only in terms of how we need to be exposed to people of varying races, creeds, socio-economic status, religions, etc. but never gets to the true WHY we should do all of that.. Without the why, the effort becomes di

minished because it takes on a presctive air of holier-than-thou guilting into doing what is right… and doing so without questioning. That gets us nowhere and makes us intellectually poorer to boot.

For me, the why comes from creating a fertile ground from which new, electric and creative ideas can sprout. Are all ideas and thoughts equal? Oh, hell no – but they should all have the chance to be vetted. They never have been and never will be, but without the chance for cross-pollination and open discussion in the marketplace of thought, we could very well miss out on some of the best ideas. I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable with the notion of missing out on those potential diamonds of change and intellectual curiosity.

And think about any time you were engaged in a judgment free exchange of ideas. You can practically feel a crackle in the air. It’s intoxicating… but far too rare.

Which is why we need to encourage these moments to happen and cherish them when they do... you know, just like our ancestors 45,000 years ago.  Obviously.

%d bloggers like this: