Every time you turn around you see the world “collaboration.”  Webster has two definitions:  (1) “to work together, especially in some artistic, literary, or scientific undertaking” and (2) “to cooperate with the enemy”.  On the surface collaboration seems like a great idea, after all, two heads are always better than one; or are they?

In my career as a businessman and as an educator I’ve learned to loathe the word collaboration, especially when it is forced upon the participants.  All of us have experienced the frustration of being on a “committee” or “taskforce”.  Usually a huge amount of time is wasted and the final recommendation of the group is full of so many compromises and silliness that solving the real problem is all but impossible.

In a symphony orchestra collaboration is needed, yet each individual must excel in his or her part; and there is a director, who makes final decisions on how the piece will be presented.  People usually volunteer to be in orchestras; they realize the importance of each participant.  Voluntary collaboration in this example makes sense.

In Education and now in business school MBA programs “team projects” are not only encouraged, but are preferred over individual initiative.  I understand that sometimes we need to consult others, but let’s not assume that brilliance comes from teamwork.  In fact, the Hegelian Dialectic is operable here, which leads to unfortunate outcomes, both for students and businesses.

The Hegelian Dialectic (named after Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel) brings about change (or supposed solutions) in a three step process; thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.  A thesis is proposed, to which there is an opposite solution, called the antithesis.  Through collaboration a synthesis is developed, which is a compromise somewhere between the thesis and antithesis.  If the thesis is truth (or the most efficient solution) the synthesis will contain only partial truth, which is a tragedy for society.  Furthermore, the synthesis now becomes the new thesis, which will be compromised again with a new synthesis even farther from the truth (or most efficient solution).

                                             HEGELIAN DIALECTIC DIAGRAM

Round One
Thesis ————>Synthesis<——————Antithesis

Round Two
(Truth) >>>>>>>>> Thesis—————->Synthesis<—————Antithesis

It is bad enough when the Hegelian Dialectic is used to mess up the education system and distort what would otherwise be good business decisions made by brilliant individuals.  It is even worse when Government gets involved.

For years the Hegelian Dialectic has been cleverly used by politicians and dictators to control the people.  First a problem is created (Thesis).  Second, opposition to the problem occurs in the form or panic or hysteria (antithesis).  Finally a compromise is created (synthesis) which would otherwise have been impossible to impose on the public.

Look at the domination of major corporations by the US Government during the last decade.  First a problem is created (bad loans as a result of the community reinvestment act).  Then panic ensues as mortgages are in default.  The synthesis is the TARP program and further regulation of business.

Collaboration (unless it is voluntary) is characterized as fair and wise.  In reality it sews the seeds of compromise and destruction, both for individuals, businesses, and the state.

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2 Responses to Collaboration

  1. Will says:

    Didn’t somebody say, “compromise is the lack of courage”?

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