Two Heads are Better than One

It’s an age-old adage taught all over the world to foster a sense of collaboration and teamwork — one that took a hit in the journal Science in August of 2010.

Led by Bahado Bahrami of the Interacting Mind Project (University College London and Aarhus University in Denmark), the study concluded that two heads are only sometimes better than one, making the important distinction that both heads must be both competent and able (or perhaps just willing) to communicate their weaknesses.

But isn’t this something that we already fundamentally understood? Imagine an open-heart surgery conducted by a heart surgeon and an astrophysicist, both of whom are world-renowned in their respective fields of study. Two brilliant minds working together, but one is obviously going to be less capable than the other. In this case, one head is certainly better than two.

For all other instances, having more brilliant minds is certainly very worthwhile. In the near future — and far future for that matter — steps should be taken to encourage more collaboration in solving problems, harnessing the incredible amount of intellectual wealth that exists in the world today.

No mind is identical to another. Each person sees and interprets information differently. Relative wealth, living conditions, education, and a number of other variables all contribute to how someone may see the world. Sure, an astrophysicist may not be the most reliable person to conduct an open-heart surgery, but who’s to say that an astrophysicist has no valuable thoughts to contribute on the methodology of the surgery? It is already understood that with no specialization in the field, an astrophysicist would not be the most technically capable, but from an intellectual standpoint, he will at least have thoughts to share and observations to make. That’s the inherent beauty of the human mind.

Sometimes, the most straightforward approach to a problem is indeed the best approach. But when time, money, and effort allow, looking at all the alternate pathways from A to B provides very useful insight. By only considering one option — because of tradition, principle, or simply out of pragmatism — many doors are closed. By taking into account every other pathway, it is possible to pool the collective knowledge and experience of all the brilliant minds out there, analyze them objectively, and then innovate accordingly.

With respect to the world’s depleting natural resources, much of modern technological research has been turned towards discovering a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to power our automobiles. Plant biologists have begun biobased-fuel research projects, chemists have been investigating fuel cell catalysts, and other alternative fuel sources have been considered. Which one will be predominantly used in the future? Who knows? Maybe it’s one of the aforementioned, maybe it’s a mixture of them, or perhaps, maybe it hasn’t been discovered yet.

People are out there. Ideas are out there. We just need to find a way to harness them.