Last month I read The Knowledge Illusion: Why we never think alone, by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, a book about the myth of individual thought and the power of collective wisdom. The book is an inspiring, but also humbling read.

The knowledge illusion, also called the Illusion of Explanatory Depth, is the illusion that we know more than we actually do. Experiments where people were asked to explain basic stuff, like how a bicycle works, have shown that we dramatically overestimate what we actually know. We think we know, but when asked to explain, we come up with critically flawed explanations. The knowledge is out there, with other people, Wikipedia, books, the Internet. When we read the correct explanation we go, yes, of course, that’s what I wanted to say. We feel we knew the right answer, but couldn’t reproduce it when asked.

The book introduced me to the idea of ‘Collaborative Intelligence’, which is the idea that intelligence resides not in individual brains, but in the collective mind. “Human thought is incredibly impressive. But it is a product of a community, not of any individual alone.”

Intelligence is a measure of how well we work together and this raises questions about our educational system. Education still focuses on increasing intellectual independence, largely ignoring the fact that knowledge depends on others. That’s why the book concludes that learning should be more about “learning to collaborate with others, recognizing what knowledge we have to offer and what gaps we must rely on others to help us fill.”

At Yabbu we focus at the heart of collaboration: the meeting. The insights from this book fit our philosophy perfectly. First we fall victim to the knowledge illusion that we know how to collaborate and perform great meetings. But we don’t. Secondly, we are not aware of the power of collaborative intelligence, so we see meetings as a necessity instead of an opportunity to unlock the full potential of our collective wisdom. If we were taught better about collaboration, we would be eager to continuously improve our meetings and perform way better.

This is precisely why we are here. We train your company to change the way your people meet, based on all the meeting knowledge and insights we got through collaboration over the past 5 years. And to make it extremely simple for you to apply what we teach, we built Yabbu!

The subtitle of the book is Why we never think alone. It feels like a paraphrase of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song You’ll never walk alone. Today this song is sung at soccer stadiums across the globe. In that spirit I would like to finish with our Yabbu version:



When you walk into a stormy meeting
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the beginning of the meeting
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of an owl

Walk on
Walk on
With hope
And Yabbu in your heart
And you’ll never think alone
You’ll never think alone

You’ll never think alone


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