I am a synergist. I love to work at the intersection and collision of ideas, disciplines, and departments. Of course, like anything, I have to practice this skill, and I hope to continue progressing in the synergizing of things. As Carol Dweck has taught me to say, “I am not yet the synergist that I will be!” I believe Howard Gardner that one of the five minds of the future is the “synthesizing mind.” So, I practice synthesizing and synergizing.
How do I practice? I look for the connections between and among things. I purposefully look. I risk and experiment and take chances. Often, I fail. But I keep synergizing. I work to connect those parts that might result in a whole whose sum is greater than I originally imagined. Also, I get a lot of help from others. WE are smarter than ME when it comes to colliding and synergizing ideas.
This morning, I watched another synergist on TED. In just 4 short minutes, Nathalie Miebach demonstrated to me that mathematical data collection, weather science, 3D art, and music are marvelously integrated. What if school promoted and empowered this type of work…
Then, I remembered a blog post from Garr Reynolds in which he quotes Steve Jobs from a 1997 interview:
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try and sell it…we have tried to come up with a strategy and vision for Apple, it started with “What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?” Not starting with “Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we going to market that?” And I think that’s the right path to take.”
And, so, here is some of my synergy practice this morning: I see Miebach’s TED talk and Job’s quote as inextricably linked together. Schools are envisioning a transformation towards more integrated studies. Some schools are already doing so with great success. Researchers are studying such schools and writing about the Powerful Learning that is happening in such places. Among other shared traits, the schools that are transforming successfully are putting “customer experience” far ahead of “awesome technology.” The successful ones, it seems to me, are guiding students to discover the intersections – the synergies – among such things as mathematical data collection, weather science, 3D art, and music. Then, they are engaging various technologies as tools with which to explore and deepen understanding.
Yesterday, at our faculty meeting, we also took a step in synergy practice. For the second meeting in a row, we told “campfire stories” of some exciting “customer experiences” from our classes and courses. We identified some points on our faculty graph. Now, we have a greater potential to play that great game of motor skill – connect the dots. Wanna play?
[This post first appeared on It’s About Learning, October 25, 2011.]