Tim Harford tells the story of mathematician Paul Erdös who was prolific in his publication of some five hundred papers. The especially remarkable thing is that he collaborated with others in order to do this. Never staying in a place for very long, his motto was, “Another roof, another proof.”*
This is an example of inclusive collaboration. There are exclusive collaborations. Harford preceded his telling of Erdös’ story with that of the British 2000 Olympics 8+ rowing team that won gold. They’d carried themselves off to work together in preparation for the Games. No one knew who they were never mind thinking they would win.
It’s the inclusive collaboration that fascinates me most.
I have come to see reading a book as collaborating. I was almost 40 before I really began reading. Reading to gain insight, I’ve come to discover there’s a way of reading that brings new thoughts into being and these new thoughts can be explored with others and then written about.
Now I find myself wondering about how a collaboration of people can work together to produce a book when they have been told that publishers don’t like many people being involved. It’s messy. That’s the thing about a reciprocal world. It’s messy. And beautifully so.
(*Paul Erdös, quoted in Tim Harford’s Messy.)