Connections – Episode 14

Jodie was fascinated by the next memory. She knew that there were students from other majors in her classes, but she didn’t realize that they had contributed memories as well. She was interested to see that they also valued the lessons for life that they didn’t get in their own major.

You probably don’t remember me since I only had you for one class. But that class has been vital in my career. I remember one day early in the semester when the class involved a situation where we had to use natural logarithms. At the end of class, you said that would be the most advanced math we would need for this class. I thought at the time that this class was going to be a guaranteed A. I had learned natural logs in my junior year in high school. Boy was I wrong.

Each class you taught a problem solving tool using an actual situation you had encountered. The explanations were excellent. Then we had a homework assignment where we had to use that tool. The assignments were also practical situations. And that’s where I had problems. In my major, I was used to problems that were formulaic. If you understood the math, the solution came easy. That wasn’t the case with your assignments.

I remember going to your office about my struggles. Naively I said: Can’t you just give me a formula to use? You just laughed and said the world doesn’t work that way. Then we discussed how I can develop my creative abilities. I had falsely believed in the right brain/left brain myth and had told myself that I wasn’t creative.

What you advised me to do was to find one or two collaborative partners to do the homework with. What I discovered and have used ever since is that creativity is often a product of collaborative intelligence, not individual talent. Those partners have become lifelong friends and suggested that I write this memory.

I’m now 17 years into my career and manage a design team. The formula part of our work is now automated. What makes the difference is how we work together to develop creative designs.

Your class was the only one I took where we were encouraged to work together on assignments. That’s where I learned the value of collaborative intelligence as being vital to creative problem solving.

As I look back on my college days, I’m disgusted by how much our university spent on discouraging collaborative work. And virtually nothing was spent on teaching us how to work together. That ability to work together is something that artificial intelligence cannot duplicate.

Susanna – Class of 2006

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