We flourish through collaboration and struggle to ask for help

In his TED Talk, When Ideas Have Sex, Matt Ridley asks how we became the only species that becomes more prosperous as it becomes more populous? He suggests that to answer the question, we need to understand how human beings bring together their brains and enable their ideas to combine and recombine, to meet and to mate. We need to understand how ideas have sex.

He says, ‘The answer is exchange, the habit of exchanging one thing for another. It’s a unique human feature. No other animal does it. You can teach them in the laboratory to do a little bit of exchange — and indeed there’s reciprocity in other animals — But the exchange of one object for another never happens. As Adam Smith said, “No man ever saw a dog make a fair exchange of a bone with another dog.’’’

Our success is not due to individual intelligence or imagination, he says, instead it’s a collective enterprise. It’s not important how clever individuals are; what matters is how smart the collective brain is.

His example is the ubiquitous computer mouse. No one person knows how to make a computer mouse. Many people combine their expertise from someone who drills an oil well to make the plastic to the person on the assembly line. They all play a part, but none of them knows the whole.

You would think that would make us want to learn how to collaborate and ask for help. But it is at odds with another human tendency, which is to be independent. 

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, in the HBR article, Why It’s So Hard to Ask for Help, suggests several barriers to asking for help.

  • The fear of being vulnerable
  • The need to be independent
  • The fear of rejection
  • Overempathizing with others
  • A sense of victimhood
  • The fear of being vulnerable

He suggests we can get better at asking for help through practice.

🙋 What are the benefits of collaboration and asking for help in your experience? 🙋

Best regards, Brian

PS: I need your help!

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