TITLE: Being Part of a Group AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 15, 2008 4:30 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Surround yourself with smart, competent people, and you will find ideas in the air. One of the compelling thoughts in that article is this:
A scientific genius is not a person who does what no one else can do; he or she is someone who does what it takes many others to do.
For those of us who are not geniuses, the lesson is that we can still accomplish great things -- if we take part in the right sort of collaboration and be curious, inquisitive, and open to big ideas. I think this applies not only to inventions but also to ideas for start-ups and insight to class projects. (So go to class. You'll find people there.) But being in a group is not a path to easy accomplishment, as people who have tried to write a book in a group know:
Talking about a "group-book" is a lot of fun. Actually putting one together, maybe less fun.
The ongoing ChiliPLoP working group of which I am a member is another datapoint for Mitzenmacher's claim. Doing more than brainstorming ideas in a groups takes all the same effort, coordination, and individual and collective responsibility as any other sort of work. (As an aside, I love Stigler's Law as quoted in the Gladwell article linked above! Self-reference can be a joy, especially with the twist engendered by this one.) -----