Thinking together, we can accomplish much!

I have been thinking a lot about what is takes to help adults develop the skills, dispositions and knowledge to intentionally think interdependently.

Below, you will find some of my thoughts.

Qualities of Effective Collaborators 



Actions to Positively Impact Your Skills 

Appreciate the nature of adult learning Learn from or revisit the work of Malcolm Knowles and others
Embrace the uniqueness of each adult  and interact in ways that sincerely appreciate and connect with the individual Be willing to develop honest and sincere relationships with the individuals you are helping
Celebrate the fact that your work requires effectively listening to and understanding the individuals you serve so that you can help them identify and connect with their specific growth Learn or revisit the skills of active listening and practice these skills regularly in sincere relationships and become intentional about framing your efforts in response to each individual and his or her unique needs
Respect the complexity individuals face as they explore and address their own growth related to thinking interdependently Call upon and/or increasing your ability to accept the ‘messiness’ and complexity of adult learning while learning about and appreciating the uniqueness of each adult you serve
Accept that while individuals are learning about and becoming engaged in thinking interdependently  this might lead to a real sense of disequilibrium Support and encourage the individual by carefully listening to and suggesting that they think about the developmental nature of this new learning
Reframe and embrace the challenges that present themselves as learning opportunities for those you serve Develop your ability to reframe  “problems” into a potentially favorable situation
Establish an appreciation for and understanding of the adaptive and developmental nature of becoming more comfortable and able to initiate and/or engage in interdependent thinking Develop routines for checking in with the adults you are working with to reinforce, support and stretch their thinking and actions related to initiating and/or engaging in interdependent thinking
Acknowledge and remind adults that the transition from mostly thinking independently to often thinking interdependently will take time and will require letting go of old ways and for a time, being unsure of new ways to interact Study the work of William Bridges, both Managing Transitions and Transitions – with the understandings you gain from Bridges – support the individual transitions adults will experience during this growth and development
Support the adult and invite him/her to revisit their motivation (both personal and for the common good) for entering into this potential major change in their approach to interacting, engaging and thinking with others Study the work of the Patterson and others in the Influencer with a special focus on the concepts of personal motivation and ability and then use this knowledge to guide your support of the adults you serve
Maintain a core focus on the individual continuing to increasing his or her ability to listen for understanding – this is a major behavior for those engaged in improving their ability to think together Study the many sources of information and skill building regarding Active Listening and specifically the work of Coveyin relation to the basic concept of ‘seeking first to understand’
Articulately and with sensitivity point out your impression (if you hold the perception) that the adult(s) you are assisting seem to be engaging in polite parallel thinking as opposed to the engaging in thinking interdependently Remind the adults you are working with of how the common good can be advanced by moving beyond polite parallel thinking
While thinking interdependently individuals must be welcoming, friendly, and sincere  Block asks the question: “How are we going to be when we gather together?” This is a question you’ll want to frame and reframe as you help adults decide ‘how they are going to be’ when they are thinking together
Celebrate the growth of those you serve



1)            Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging. San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008


2)            Patterson, Kerry, Grenny, Joseph, Maxfield, David, McMillan, Ron and Switzler, Al.  Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. New York, New York: McGraw Hill, 2008


3)            Knowles, Malcolm S., Holton III, Elwood F. and Swanson, Richard A. The Adult Learner, Sixth edition.  Burlington, Massachusetts: Elsevier Butterworth Heineman, 2005


4)            Bridges, William. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Second edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Cap Press, 2003

Bridges, William. Transitions: Making sense of Life’s Changes. Second edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Cap Press, 2004



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  1. Peg Hartwig said:

    Thank you Jerry! This is a great compilation of the professional shifts needed as educators transition from isolated & independent to collaborative professional communities as we strive to meet the needs of all learners. This compilation also summarizes the DEN community well. I think when isolated educators are exposed to the DEN, they quickly see these qualities emerge in themselves.

  2. Jerry Jennings said:

    You are welcome, Peg. I believe educators and, for that matter, all citizens, will benefit from stretching and learning to truly engage, listen and learn from each other. Interdependent thinking is a ‘growth edge’ for all of us.
    In a couple of weeks the Teachers College Press will publish The Social Brain. Check it out. I wrote the forward and one of the chapters. I am excited to be contributing to the discussion and to be learning from others. Forward!

    • Jerry Jennings said:

      The book title really is: The Power of Social Brain

      I left out a word above.

  3. Sheryl Roberts said:

    Hi Jerry, thank you for this post. Your comments on collaboration are spot on. I’ve learned that my perceptions of a person are usually limited because there is so much more to learn about them. People have many skills and ideas that are not always visible and they almost always have more to contribute than we realize. A person make appear to be limited, but with time and patience, we can learn about the whole person and may be pleasantly surprised.

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