Increasingly the complexity of our modern lives demands that we work as part of a team. To be able to share ideas, listen to each other, build ideas collaboratively and draw on each others individual strengths. Doing this allows a team to achieve more than the sum the individuals that form it.
Unfortunately team work is often consider as a simple division of labour. One person does their part and then passes the task onto someone else to do theirs. This is acting Interdependently, not Thinking Interdependently.
When we Think Interdependently we achieve something that wouldn't be possible without the rest of the team. It's not a matter of A + B (which would be simple division of labour) but the reality of A x B that is Thinking Interdependently. We learn from and extend upon each others ideas and thoughts. We think together, not just work together.
There are many skills involved with Thinking Interdependently and in doing this we also call upon many other Habits of Mind. We must Listen with Empathy and Understanding to our colleagues, we have to Think Flexibly to consider different perspectives, we must Think and Communicate with Clarity and Precision to avoid abiguity and confusion.
It is of couse possible to improve ones ability to Think Interdependently. For teachers a wide range of resources exist to help teach children to work cooperatively. The work of Spencer Kagan is a wonderfully rich source of cooperative learning tools which help students learn to Think Interdependently.
In the home, Thinking Interdependently can be encouraged by the way we structure tasks. We should try to avoid the division of labour / acting interdependently - which is really simply multiple people acting independently, and instead design activities where each individual relies in each other. In Spencer Kagans principles of cooperative learning this would entail the following four characteristics.
1. Positive Interdependence. This means that the group sinks or swims together, that they rely on each other. There should be one group goal, not multiple individual goals
2. Individual Accountability. Each person should be responsible for their part. Although the task must be a joint task, each person has a role and must be held accountable for completing their part.
3. Equal Participation. No one can be left to do it all, and no one should be able to opt out. The roles within the group and fairly distributed according to skills and time.
4. Simultanious Interaction. To encourge effective group work everyone should be doing something at the same time. We don't want to encourage the division of labour into a sequence of unrelated tasks. No one should be waiting for other to "do their part".