Letting go of old beliefs can be hard. As a collaboration tool, InCommons tries to ease this process by not only connecting individuals and fostering collaboration, but also by presenting hundreds of solutions and ideas to common and unique community problems, enabling individuals to peruse and consider on their own.
But what happens when we as individuals refuse to collaborate? Quite often, the fate of a nation can hang in the balance.
In her book "Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President," historian Candice Millard tells a haunting story about the brief tenure and assassination of our 20th president, James Garfield.
In July 1881, barely four months into his term, Garfield was shot in the back by a crazed loner angry that he did not receive a job in the new administration. In the 90 seconds we spend on Garfield in our high school history classes, we learn that the President died three months later from the wound.
But, in Millard's book, she re-opens the story to remind us that Garfield's wound wasn't fatal (as the bullet pierced no major organs.) Rather, Garfield was murdered by the malpractice of his chief surgeon, who applied "archaic and unsanitary care" while refusing to collaborate with others as he tended to the president in a White House sick room.
- He refused to share responsibility with other physicians who asked if they could examine the president to make their recommendations for treatment
- He refused to listen to newly held beliefs that physicians should not probe wounds with their fingers, thereby causing infection within Garfield's internal organs
- He refused to heed the pleas of a European physician named Lister, who advocated a new practice for sterilizing wounds and medical rooms that was rapidly becoming a commonly held method in Europe and even the Midwest
- He refused to fully collaborate with Alexander Graham Bell, who was quickly creating an X-Ray technology that could have located Garfield's bullet, which upon removal may have eased the rapid spread of infection through Garfield's body
The lesson from Garfield's tale: The opposite of collaboration isn't "going it alone" or needing to be the hero because we have no one to help us. That's an unfortunate path, but it's not a fatal mistake. The opposite of collaboration is refusing to welcome, listen or acknowledge the input of others. When pride or stubbornness cause us to turn away the earnest and lending hands of those who want to help, we are made weaker, and the problems we are attempting to address only grow.