CooperationThere were three of us on the truck. We didn't talk much; we loaded the furniture and boxes as they arrived, packing them in relatively tightly. At one point the other two were tilting up a couch, I made some hand motions at them, they rotated the couch and it fit that much more closely. It's a loose group of friends. We help each other move. Our society is mobile enough that we do it about two or three times a year. I've been on the truck packing the items and off the truck carrying them to the packers. When I'm on the truck there seem to be three styles of interaction. (1) Cooperative, non verbal, (2) Cooperative, verbal, and (3) Dictatorial. I get along best in the cooperative, non verbal style, as epitomized by that time the three of us were doing the packing. We packed the truck and by the time we finished we had probably said ten words during the hour and a half we worked. Not even telling stories or swapping gossip. I've learned, over time, that if I'm packing with a verbal packer, I have to be verbal myself. That works pretty well, although it doesn't feel as good to me. In that case there's a constant stream of patter, gossip, stories and commentary about where those items fit. When I'm involved with the third style, I generally get off the truck. It's better for my mental health. I don't have any data on which style produces closer packing. I was on a move recently, where the style was dictatorial, but the result was good, even if I wasn't the one packing. A study in October of 2010 from the University of Leicester's School of Psychology and Department of Economics, showed that two people can learn to cooperate, even if they don't know they are interacting. Cooperation seems to be built in to our genetics in a very deep way. More than two people need "explicit communication and planning," but two people do it naturally. Cooperation, not necessarily altruism. We can cooperate without being altruistic, as long as our goals are similar. This is the idea of teams, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts. I think it is part of our strength as a species; no one hunter is going to take down a wooly mammoth, but a group of them just might. It is currently fashionable to celebrate rugged individualism, but humanity doesn't really work that way. Tom Cruise believes different, I know, if only because he took Mission Impossible, a TV series that was almost a paeon to teamwork, and turned it into a movie series hymn to a single hero, played by Tom. If you choose to agree with Tom, that's your privilege, but I'm not sure I care for his scholarship, and I'd like to see him accomplish much of anything without his retinue. I feel better being part of a team than being part of a committee, where lack of communication and individual agendas keep getting in the way of accomplishing anything. I've been in musical groups, on business teams, theater productions and moving groups, where the group just functioned. During that last move, one of the women said she had blinked and the truck was loaded and on its way. Many hands, cooperating, make light work. There were three of us on that truck, not two, yet we worked as a team without talking. We were communicating the whole time, not overtly except for my hand gestures about the couch, we mostly just noticed what the others were doing and occasionally looked for confirmation, so it wasn't that miraculous, but when it was over I felt like we'd taken down a mammoth.
30 Jul 2012
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