Over the last week, I worked with a group of educators in completing an application that would nominate two of their colleagues for a district award. As the team worked together, trying to offer unique and creative thoughts when drafting the answers to the questions they were being asked, I couldn’t help to think about what Rank (as quoted by Walton, 2016) explained. He wrote “people’s desire to be creative stems from a drive to be unique as the primary motivation to follow a path of creativity” (Walton, 2016). However, Walton also noted that “we all need to belong to groups, to feel, to be seen, and to have things in common with others” (Walton, 2016). Which according to Walton, “has the potential to undermine our motivation to seek uniqueness” (Walton, 2016). These two ideas kept lingering in my head as I observed the interactions of the group work together trying to be creative by offering unique perspectives and ideas of how to complete the task at hand.
As I sat back and continue to notice the group’s creativity and collaboration at work, I couldn’t help to question Walton’s argument that “our sense of group membership encouraging cognitive process similar to other group members undermines the motivation to think uniquely, and as a result undermines creativity” (Walton, 2016). Does working collaboratively really limits our creativity? What does that mean to collaborative cultures? And what is the balance to be had between collaboration and individualism in order to continue accelerating student learning? I can say that I am not entirely sure, but as I kept watching the group dynamics, I was able to realize that without effectively leadership and clear direction, collective creativity has the danger of being limited or completely absent. In my opinion, this could result in damaging interactions, mediocre effort and overall low quality of work. As leaders, that is the last thing we want in an organization, specially one designed to support student learning, leadership building and professional growth. After a while, then it hit me! Collaboration without synergy does not promote a collaborative culture. Instead, it promotes compliance from individuals who think their leaders ask them to work together, so they must. As leaders, it is our duty to nurture a collaborative culture that promotes individual growth, creativity and contribution. We must build systems that allow educators to see themselves as part of the puzzle. For them to realize that their uniqueness, their creativity, and their success contributes to the uniqueness, creativity and success of the whole organization. That’s is the real power of effective collective collaboration.
Evans argues that “every organization operatives on the basis of some set of shared assumptions” (Evans, 2013). He expands on this concept when he says, “assumptions give rise to the culture of the organization, they inform and limit its capacity for change, and explain much of its institutional behavior” (Evans, 2013). As the group of teachers completed their work in a collaborative fashion, I wonder about Evans claim. What are the teacher’s assumptions about collaboration and task completion? Do they believe it to be a task that needs to be done or do they fully understand the impact of their individual creative contribution? How innovative were they during their task? As a leader, what would I need to do to help them increase their innovative capacity? What assumptions do they have about their role within their group? Again, I am not entirely sure. However, what I do know is that it is my responsibility as their leader to help them see it, understand it and define as we continue to constantly reculture a collaborative environment that in based on synergy. It is my duty to nurture and leverage their individual strengths and creativity for a common goal which is student learning, leadership building and professional growth.
Evans, R. (2013). What is Organizational Innovation? EmcArts Inc.
Walton, A. (2016). Resolving the Paradox of Group Creativity. Harvard Business Review.