The article "The Rise of the New Groupthink", by Susan Cain (via @BettyAnnX11) has made me think more about how collaboration contributes to creative thought. In the article, research is presented that declares that more innovation has occurred when one works in solitude and that the most successful workplaces allow workers their own private spaces and time for prolonged solitude in addition to opportunities for collaboration. At a time when collaboration and creativity are very prevelant "buzzwords" in education (and the workplace for that matter) this is definitely food for thought. In the article it is suggested that, "Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time." I was also surprised by the assertion that brainstorming as a group is not necessarily the optimal way for quality ideas to be generated unless it is done electronically. I was tempted to read the 43 comments following the article, but I decided to write this reflection first and then "stand on the shoulders" of others rather than passively being part of a "groupthink". By doing that I can confirm, extend or change the direction of my thoughts rather than just mimic what others have already contributed. And that is what I think this article is emphasizing. In the end, it seems that BALANCE is the key and when discussing such big concepts as "creativity" and "collaboration" to remember that when making big decisions on how that is best encouraged that those involved must first "be on the same page" , or at least recognize that these two concepts can be percieved in many different ways.
Here are what I think then are some good practices to encourage creativity and how to most benefit from collaboration.
1. Assign specific roles before meeting in a group and then give individuals time to prepare for that role in solitude.
2. During a task or project have a balance of time spent working individually and then coming together as a group to showcase, support or extend the individual activity.
3. At times, provide the opportunies to choose to do a task individually or in a group.
4. Especially for children, emphasize the importance of silence and solitude in our everyday lives and provide examples of innovative ideas of famous people that occurred in solitude.
5. A teacher should have students reflect regularly about their thinking as it occurs individually and in groups.
6. Allow opportunities to brainstorm electronically to allow for introverts a comfortable way to contribute as well as more time.
So back to the milk jugs of course. Here's my first challenge on this blog: On your own, in a quiet spot, take some time to examine carefully a plastic milk jug, and using the SCAMPER technique make a list of five orginal uses of the item. One catch, make all five items belong to a category of some sort. I'll post my example shortly and I'd love to post yours (or your students).