A recent post by Max Drummy on the NPDL Connects blog made me think about how well our schools and classrooms are set up for (and foster) diversity of thinking. In the post, there is a video (Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson) that talks about how the coffee houses and salons of the past were places where diverse ideas collided.
This prompted some questions.
Where are our present day coffee house and salons?
What impact does the fact that many of these places of collision are now virtual have on how effective they are at bringing diverse people together?
Are our learning spaces open to the collision of diverse hunches and ideas?
I don’t think it’s necessarily about where these places are, but rather who goes there. People tend to think and talk with others who think and talk about the same things they do. Educators talk to educators, lawyers talk to lawyers, police officers talk to police officers and so on. It’s natural. People in similar fields ‘get’ the context and have a schema for the conversations. There can still be discourse, but the diversity of thinking is often limited to experiences in one field.
In some ways, increased connectivity (and the ease of it) has allowed for groups of like minded people in similar fields, to come together in closed systems. That turns out to be a significant barrier to innovation. Innovation needs diversity of thought, experience and expertise. It thrives on the coming together of seemingly unrelated ideas to create something new. When there was only one coffee house or salon, all types of thinkers from a range of disciplines were present. When every group of like-minded people can have their own space, you can end up with an echo chamber and entrenched thinking.
In classrooms, opportunities for diversity of thinking depend on the people, system or school. At all levels, (from the classroom to the boardroom) we need to foster, value and celebrate building on the ideas of others and diverse ideas and ways of thinking. Surround yourself with people who do that for you. They are like-hearted. They may not agree with you but they are in it for the learning, not to win the argument.
Learning networks benefit greatly from diversity in their membership. Contributions from various disciplines, contexts and roles can produce the kinds of collisions of ideas and hunches that we couldn’t come to on our own. Have a look at your professional learning network. How many people do you connect with regularly from other fields?
In the end, the question is how are you, in your role, contributing to learning spaces and contexts that promote the collision of diverse ideas?