13 October 2004

Philosophical Laughing

I was reading through "The Critics" feature of The New Yorker from December 2, 2002. I came across a critique written by Malcolm Gladwell on GROUP THINK, "What does "Saturday Night Live" have in common with German philosophy?"

Here's a slice from this that touched on collaboration and innovation with such poignance.

"Darwin, in a lovely phrase, called it "philosophical laughing," which was his way of saying that those who depart from cultural or intellectual consensus need people to walk beside them and laugh with them to give them confidence. But there's more to it than that. One of the peculiar features of group dynamics is that clusters of people will come to decisions that are far more extreme than any individual member would have come to on his own. People compete with each other and egg each other on, showboat and grandstand; and along the way they often lose sight of what they truly believed when the meeting began. Typically, this is considered a bad thing, because it means that groups formed explicitly to find middle ground often end up someplace far away. But at times this quality turns out to be tremendously productive, because, after all, losing sight of what you truly believed when the meeting began is one way of defining innovation."

Gladwell's whole piece is worth a read.

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