We are a society of seven billion human beings all with the ability to almost instantly connect. In seconds, we can send a text message or start a video chat with a friend on the other side of the planet. We often take for granted how easy it is to hop on a plane and sip coffee with that same friend a day later.
We are forever interconnected, now more than ever before. Not long ago, it’d be hard to imagine a board meeting without every executive physically sitting in the room. Now, it’s common to hash out quarterly planning strategies or discuss budgets while leaders sit in comfortably in their offices (or homes) thousands of miles apart.
But the perks of an interconnected world is more than just about pleasure, convenience, or savings on travel expenses. According to Rajesh Kasturirangan—the cofounder and CEO of Socratus—bringing together collective knowledge from around the globe could be the key to solving our biggest problems.
As barriers that once separated the world’s best minds dissolve, Rajesh envisions a collaborative future brilliantly designed for the greater good.
The Midwife of Wisdom
As an MIT grad with a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science, it’s little surprise that Rajesh looks towards mathematics, science, and technology to lead his team’s initiatives when it comes to changing the world.
He also uses wisdom directly from the top thinkers and changemakers of the past. “If you think about citizenship and today’s politics, elections, and democracies, it’s something that really we take for granted,” he says. “You go to the election booth…cast your vote, and don’t think about how it’s all orchestrated.
“But actually, it was mathematicians, scientists, and others in the late 18th Century during the French Revolution that set these institutions into place,” Rajesh says. With a desire to fix their broken systems, French Revolutionaries used collective knowledge to build the framework for modern democracy.
“We need to bring back some of that geeky enthusiasm,” Rajesh says. Those thinkers did the best with what they had, but society has shifted dramatically over the past 250 years. “We are living in a world that is more complex than our current institutions are capable of handling,” says Rajesh.
We also have new opportunities to bring the world’s most gifted and creative minds together. Not only do we have amazing technology at our fingertips, but our society is allowing more diverse voices to join the table—voices previously left out of the conversation.
That’s where Rajesh and his team at Socratus come in. They proudly call themselves “the Midwives of Collective Wisdom”—a term from Socrates who often compared himself to a midwife. But rather than supporting women as they delivered babies, he supported his students and colleagues as they delivered new ideas and philosophies.
In fact, Socrates didn’t consider himself exceptionally intelligent. Instead, he attributed much of his perceived wisdom as a product of those he surrounded himself with. It was through conversations and the exchange of knowledge that people could make real progress.
It’s the early, ancient example of collective wisdom’s value—and the Socratus team wants everyone to participate.
Sharing Knowledge for a Better Tomorrow
Like Socrates, Rajesh sees immense value in collective problem-solving—or coming together to share unique perspectives and expertise. If institutions from government organizations to corporate leadership to school boards genuinely heard more viewpoints, Rajesh believes that our society would grow wiser, stronger, and healthier.
“Wisdom is one of the key ingredients in collective problem-solving,” says Rajesh. “If you’re a little bit wiser—just a tiny bit—we all are better at coming up with solutions that everyone can agree on.”
At Socratus, Rajesh and his team bring together minds, data, and design to solve the world’s largest problems as a collective rather than as individuals. They accomplish this with Silicon Valley-style Wicked Sprints where a group comes together for an intensive six days of problem solving as well as longer-term initiatives.
To date, they’ve collaborated to reduce climate change through social and economic systems, give dignity back to migrants by helping them communicate, boost living standards for India’s low-income farmers, and more.
Rajesh wants everyone to utilize a similar mentality when solving questions of all magnitudes. Here are a few of his favorite ways to encourage collaboration and collective knowledge:
Be a Participatory Citizen
Those French Revolutionaries weren’t forced to lead societal change. They chose to step up and let their voices be known. From social movements to workplace initiatives to the voting booth, Rajesh wants us all to participate.
And it’s not just about solving major issues. Participatory citizenship matters for what might be considered small things. As a leader, make sure every team member feels heard about a new project. Or in your community, step up to help a neighbor—or even a stranger—in need. By just showing up, your actions can create real, positive change.
Utilize New Technologies
One thing that we’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that we can get a lot done while separated—and much of this socially distanced productivity is thanks to modern technology.
A huge advocate using technology to collaborate, Rajesh encourages people to collaborate via the internet using tools like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or other collective channels. Distance is no longer an obstacle when it comes to shared wisdom. Now, anyone can offer knowledge from anywhere on the planet!
Look Outside of Your Bubble
Even for the extroverts among us, it’s easy to fall into patterns of collaborating with the same group. Though there’s value in a trusted peer ground under certain circumstances, it can also inhibit the growth of new ideas.
“Humans are intrinsically social,” Rajesh says. “Interconnection is built into who we are as individuals and as a species.” In short, we evolved to work together. Rajesh believes that, as a species, humans have created over 100 million different things—and few if any items of things were designed within a bubble. “You can’t produce 100 million things by being isolated,” he says.
Instead, we can build a better future by leading, learning, and creating together.
The conversation with Rajesh Kasturirangan continues on the Leading with Genuine Care podcast! You can also watch me chat with Rajesh on YouTube. Learn more about collective wisdom, Socratus’ incredible humanitarian initiatives, how you can integrate his idea in your life and leadership, and SO much more!
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