Does it matter who has the best ideas? As long as we get to the best solution why should we care who thought of it? This seems starkly reasonable. If you were in a group, and unfortunate enough to find yourselves in a life or death situation, and someone (perhaps someone you don’t much care for) comes up with a plan that looks like it has a good chance of saving everyone, I presume you wouldn’t hold out for a better plan from someone else that you like better?
When people make observations on the state of politics around the world these days, one word that comes up over and over again is ‘polarised’. Our politics, our societies and our debates are becoming ever more polarised. Extreme stances are being taken around fixed positions and there appears to be little appetite for compromise, let alone collaboration.
All sound evidence suggests that breakthroughs in thinking come from people sharing ideas and building upon each other’s contributions. Just look at the progress of ideas within science, where painstaking research and gathering of data to refute, or confirm previously held theories is the life-blood of the discipline.
Retreating into smaller, like-minded, groupings does not serve advancement of ideas well. Fear and mistrust causes people to seek out their own tribe and be suspicious of ‘others’, and, while it may provide short-term safety and comfort, the security blanket of familiarity does not encourage exploration and discovery.
The world is at a cross-roads on so many fronts, and it is imperative that ‘big idea thinking’ is encouraged. Water shortages, antibiotic resistance, climate change, refugee crises, sustainable energy. These are all problems that require world-changing solutions. These are not problems that are confined to one part of the globe, nor ones that will affect only some tribes. No-one philosophy, ideology or political persuasion can provide the answers to all of these issues.
We need innovative thinking, we need collaboration, we need insight and we need creativity. We will certainly not find those invaluable qualities within insular, polarised camps, simplistically labelled Brexit or Trump, Capitalism or Marxism, Nationalism or Federalism. If we are only prepared to listen to ideas that come out of our tribe and are always suspicious of any idea from a rival tribe then we will not progress. We will stagnate and the world’s problems will remain unresolved. We need giants to step forward, and we need many more people, from all over the world, ready to stand on their shoulders. May the best ideas win, whoever has them.