Incredible breakthroughs take place through simple, open and honest conversation. Einstein and his colleagues spent years openly bouncing ideas off each other. They exchanged concepts without trying to change the others’ minds and without bitter argument. They felt free to propose whatever idea they conceived, establishing an extraordinary professional fellowship. This risk-free collaboration led to breakthroughs and discoveries that later became the foundations of modern physics.
Other scientists of the time, in contrast, wasted their careers bickering over petty nuances of opinion and promoting their own ideas at the expense of others. They mistrusted their colleagues, covered up their own weaknesses and were reluctant to openly share their work. Many refused to discuss their honest thoughts about physics because of the fear of being labeled controversial or ignorant by their colleagues. The majority of scientists of this era lived in an atmosphere of fear and politics. They produced nothing of significance.
Einstein and his colleagues illustrate the staggering potential of collaborative thinking. The notion that open and honest collaboration allows thinking to grow as a collective phenomenon can be traced back to Socrates and other philosophers in ancient Greece. Socrates and his colleagues so revered the concept of group dialogue that they established principles of discussion to maintain a sense of collegiality. These principles were known as “Koinonia,” which means “spirit of fellowship.”