As I reflecting upon being in India I am reading and thinking about Gandhi and his contributions to India and to the world.
Gandhi talks about the importance of connectedness between and among people. He says, “Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize its oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism.”
As I think about these words I am drawn to consider the challenges we all face when people want to have their own thinking prevail over others. In such a world there are winners and losers. This kind of thinking does lead to a oneness with the universe. This kind of think is wrapped heavily in ego. I think that the complexity of the world requires people to listen, learn and think together.
The complexity of the world can lead adults to respond to problems in ways that are almost devoid of interdependent thinking in spite of the potential good that can come from collaboration. Kegan and Lahey explain, “When we experience the world as ‘too complex’ we are not just experiencing the complexity of the world. We are experiencing a mismatch between the world’s complexity and our own at this moment. There are only two logical ways to mend this mismatch – reduce the world’s complexity or increase our own.” Kegan and Lahey conclude that, despite the challenge of developing interdependent thinking skills, adults can develop their thinking. In the interest of more effectively addressing the many challenges adults face, it is clearly worth increasing our own complexity by becoming thinkers who are good at thinking with others.
The promise of people thinking interdependently through contentious problem situations is that such efforts can ultimately achieve significant positive outcomes for society and/or for the individual. When we engage in interdependent thinking, we can all influence and be part of positive change. We all will not get our way or be the ‘argument winner’. But if we invest in the concept of thinking together with an open mind, a willingness to understand how others think and feel, and a desire to reflect and rethink throughout the process of coming to an actionable decision – we can accomplish much together.
Kegan, Robert, and Lahey, Lisa L. Immunity to Change. Boston, Massachusetts:Harvard Business Press, 2009 page 12 – 14