As a scientist and a curious human being, I am always interested in how patterns are replicated from micro to macro. Take for example the veins in a leaf. If you take a close look at the pattern, you will see the same pattern in the veins of an animal; in the pattern of lightening striking; the satellite images of ancient river beds; and the appearance of tree branches in winter. The subjects are all different but each contains the same pattern.
I also see pattern in co-operative behavior. If you look at the way groups of cells send messages to each other to attain a common goal, you will see similarity to a colony of ants all working together for one purpose; or Ibex running from a lion pride. We can see this pattern of co-operation in the most primitive living things to the most complex – human society.
For many reasons an individual may feel they do their best, when they work without the aid of others. Some tasks even require an individual to work alone, but it is less commonplace. Throughout the animal kingdom – humans included – single individuals have a far smaller chance of surviving than the individuals in a larger group. I find it ironic that we celebrate ” rugged individualism” here in the U.S., when ” rugged co-operation” seems more appropriate.
Any individual has a limited number of experiences and knowledge that can be applied to the solution of any problem he or she may encounter. In other words, you can’t know everything. When the knowledge one person has is combined with that of another, you don’t just double the value of knowledge shared, you increase it exponentially. Now add a third and a fourth person to the mix and the shared resources multiply. Chances of survival for each individual and the group as a whole has greatly increased.
Not only does this create a healthy society or nation-state, but it is good for business. An autocratic business model has less chance of survival than one built on consensus and co-operation. The minds of the group can resolve challenges much more quickly and efficiently because of their unity of purpose and shared goals. It’s interesting to see the different cultures that come to the United States. Often they will work together to own motels or gas stations and they flourish with this co-operative model.
But for us as human beings, something surprising evolves from this process. We start to notice the development of meanings and values in our interaction. What once was “work” has now become service, not the kind of service that comes from duty or a false sense of responsibility, but service that creates within us a sense of fulfillment. I might even go so far as to say, this service comes from the desire to love and be loved; to create and be part of the process of creation with others with whom we share goals.
Unlike the more primitive levels of co-operation we see with cells or bee colonies, humans have the opportunity to develop something deeper and lasting when they work together to solve the ever changing problems of the world around us. Co-operation is a choice, made by mature thinking men and women who see value in both personal growth and the growth of a larger group. The next time you have an opportunity, see what difference you can make by conscious participation.