Codevelopment of ideas: power of pride

It is always interesting when you experience a case of co-development. Sort of like a case of deja vu. Co-development being the circumstance where more than one person develops roughly the same idea independently. It isn’t necessarily of any importance who develops it first; it could be across a great space of time. The critical factor is whether there is true independence of development. By that I mean that the idea is spawned without any cross contamination of the process by information from other instances of it having arisen.

Recently I was working with a friend who was developing course content and he was lamenting the fact that the group who would be participating in the course might not be those most in need of the course. He knows factually that the participants will be more junior personnel, who will of course benefit, while simultaneously being aware that the senior personnel at their firms likely have limited exposure to the area. They are more likely to gain from the course given their deeper experience and exposure and more urgent need for the material. The conflict is twofold. The senior folks can’t be seen to not know the basics either by their juniors or by their peers. So it isn’t as simple as having a separate class. The possibility of loss of face will keep them from participating.

As we talked about the problem, a notion occurred to me about having the senior staff attend on an audit basis. They would ostensibly participate to observe how their staff were doing without being subject to the assignments and participation that might reveal their shortcomings while still being able to hear the material and participate to the degree that works for them.

How does this relate to co-development? In the last week I have been reading Daniel Dennett’s book Intuition pumps and other tools for thinking. He has a chapter on using laypeople as a communication device among experts. He notes that among experts, the tendency is to under explain when speaking to a fellow expert. The notion is that it is insulting to over explain (go through all the detail needed to build the foundation for a particular point). Solutions that ask experts to be overly explicit fail in Dennett’s experience. His idea is having experts sit on the sidelines while students are taken through the basics leading up to and including the point. This allows the experts to go through all of the detail (and clarification of understanding) without being insulted by the process.
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It is entirely possible that my notion was somehow influenced by something that I came into contact with either from his development of the idea or that of someone else. Nonetheless it is also possible that we developed the idea independently.

PS This seems to point out a clear cut case of a persistent mental error. Being unwilling to go back through the basics because it may be revealing of a weakness strikes me in no other way. It may be a rational actor response to one in that situation in some sense.

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