Before you read this, check out Part I if you haven't already.
Moving on from utility and purpose, today I want to discuss what I feel like is the more important piece: collaboration. Indeed, I think collaboration is really also tied into purpose. Not always, of course, one can have a personal goal, and find purpose from the bootstraps, but I think this is the exception rather than the rule.
Purpose comes from many places, but for the majority, the locus of purpose is typically external. Whether they derive that feeling from religion, family, friends, nationalism, or any combination of these: that sense of purpose comes from a sense of community, of belonging, of fellowship.
If purpose comes, at least in part, from community and collaboration, then so too would motivation. In fact, as Wiggins quotes the National Academy of Sciences in his post:
Feeling that one is contributing something to others appears to be especially motivating. For example, young learners are highly motivated to write stories and draw pictures that they can share with others… Learners of all ages are more motivated when they can see the usefulness of what they are learning and when they can use that information to do something that has an impact on others—especially their local community.
And also Dewey:
But lack of cultivation of the social spirit is not all. Positively individualistic motives and standards are inculcated. Some stimulus must be found to keep the child at his studies. At the best this will be his affection for his teacher, together with a feeling that he is not violating school rules…
Fear is a motive which is almost sure to enter in,—not necessarily physical fear, or fear of punishment, but fear of losing the approbation of others; or fear of failure, so extreme as to be morbid and paralyzing. On the other side, emulation and rivalry enter in. Just because all are doing the same work, and are judged (either in recitation or examination with reference to grading and to promotion) not from the standpoint of their personal contribution, but from that of comparative success, the feeling of superiority over others is unduly appealed to.
The weaker gradually lose their sense of power, and accept a position of continuous and persistent inferiority. The effect upon both self-respect and respect for work need not be dwelt upon. The strong learn to glory, not in their strength, but in the fact that they are stronger. The child is prematurely launched into the region of individualistic competition, and this in a direction where competition is least applicable, namely, in intellectual and artistic matters, whose law is coöperation and participation.
The important thing to note here is an insistence on social interaction in education. While his post and these quotations focus on education, the idea is applicable on a far wider scope.
In the above quotations, if you were to replace “school” with “workplace,” I suspect you would find a very similar circumstance arising. Most people, I think, when they are at work don’t produce their work solely for the glory of themselves. Sure, they want to be recognized for that work, but I think most don’t want to be recognized for that work as “an individual did some independent good work for himself.” I think the desire is, “an individual did good work for the benefit of the company.” And one can take personal satisfaction in having contributed to the group; they need not be mutully exclusive.
Many work projects are not entirely singular in nature, at least in my experience. There’s a collaboration of many different parties. The group making the request must be involved at a minimum, but for a more complex task, there’s often other people or other departments that must come together to produce the solution to whatever problem has been assigned. This is a collaborative effort, which produces a cohesive whole.
This, then, is in perfect harmony with my thoughts on creativity. Take this very post. While maybe I looked at all the pieces and put them together just this way, and I alone sat here and typed this out, I am by no means the only person involved here. My friend who introduced the idea to me is involved, the Back to Work team is involved, Grant Wiggins is involved, the National Academy of Sciences is involved, John Dewey is involved, and any number of others who might have influenced the way that I think or write.
This is the essence of creativity existing, thriving, and flourishing outside of a vacuum. And why do I take the time and put forth the effort to write a post like this? There’s some selfishness to it, I guess. I want to write it, and I want people to read it and enjoy it, so I can gain some validation and personal pride from that fact. But more than that, I looked upon the ideas of these other people, and felt I could contribute. I felt I could give back to society in some way. Maybe this post will become an influencer for someone else, so they might take it, extend it, combine it with other members of the great collaborative effort of human intelligence and knit something better with it.
It is this interconnectedness, this community that I may never see, that makes me excited to create, makes me want to push myself to become “efficacious” as Wiggins put it. It’s the thing that drives communities like 20-something Bloggers, or Vlog Every Day in August. It’s what makes us want to put in the time; it’s what gives us the grit to continue.
And it’s something until very recently, I was terribly ignorant of. But we live, and we learn. In fact, it was participating in VEDA last year that really opened my eyes to this phenomenon and gave me the motivation to really become a creator. And I hope I never forget it. I hope I have the grit to keep it up.