Creative Behaviors Blog Series – Post Six

Supporting Your Creative Student: Understanding Collaboration

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton, physicist and mathematician

Collaboration is more than a skill for today’s workplace; it’s a creative behavior. Collaboration has the potential to take the ideas of different individuals and combine them in new and unique ways. Even elaboration, the process of building on someone else’s idea, is a form of indirect collaboration.

At the Da Vinci schools, collaboration is a normal part of the school day. In order to support your student, there are two important things to remember about collaboration: it’s typically both slow and challenging.

Group work involves complicated social interactions, which often leads to conflict. As a group becomes larger in size, this potential for conflict increases. Working with just one other person is relatively simple, but working in a group of several students is complicated. Students must learn to resolve conflict, and this takes time, energy and practice.

When you consider all the trouble that comes with collaboration, it’s tempting to say, “Why not just work alone instead?” And while working alone tends to be faster and more straightforward, you lose the ability to combine your ideas with the ideas of other people.

“The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table,” suggests Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From. He suggests, “This is not the wisdom of the crowd, but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that the individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network.”


Claudia Bear is a Da Vinci parent, with daughters attending Da Vinci Design and the Innovation Academy. She has a background in both science and the visual arts. In addition to practicing optometry, Claudia is a department manager with Kaiser Permanente, where she manages projects, develops leadership training for managers, and serves on the medical center’s Innovation Design Team.