Collaboration and reason

To ‘collaborate‘ is to act ‘jointly’, especially on an artistic work. To ‘co-operate’ is simply to act together. Thus in a collaboration the differences between actors and the need for something to join them together is more emphasised.

The acting together may take place in a single ‘coherent’ epoch, or may span epochs.

  • If we anticipate a single epoch then there are a coherent set of rules, constraints, drivers, which may be thought of rationally, with roles allocated to actors. These roles may be tied together by a conventional plan within a conventional organisational structure, and conventionally managed. Thus, within the context of some O&M conventions, one seeks co-operation. If any of the actors are out of step with the establsihed ways of the epoch, they should be brought into line before or while co-operating.
  • If we have a mix of actors their activity might tend to complexify what would otherwise have been a coherent epoch. We may need to collaborate simply because the actors are artistic, even on a simple task. (We may need to add some artistic or otherwise interesting aspect to the activity, simply to keep the actors engaged.)
  • If the activity concerns a zone that may have many epochs, e.g. is open-ended, then one necessarily wants actors with different capabilities, such as those who can adapt the hear and now, those who can anticipate possible futures, those who are good at hedging or otherwise developing robust plans and policies.
  • In many organisations a person who reasons across different time-scales simultaneously, and hence reasons incoherently, may be seen as ‘illogical’ and confused.  Using different actors, particularly those from different parent organisations, with dfifferent disciplines and even different cultural and biological inherentances, can mask or help ‘rationalise’ these apparent defects.

Thus, I suggest that the nature of appropriate collaboration can usefully be thought of in terms of the types of epochs to be covered and the types of reasoning required, as well as, for example, familiarity with the subject matters. Co-operation within an epoch might be seen as collecting ‘the facts’, making decisions, and then acting to an agreed plan. But in fuller collaboration there may be no ‘facts’ and no possibility of mapping out the zone of desired activity, let alone the possibility of someone making coherent sense of the situation.


About Dave Marsay
Mathematician with an interest in 'good' reasoning.

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