Chilean Miners Saved by Collaboration

We’ve all been watching as the most impressive mine rescue in history took place.  We saw pictures of the narrow capsule that barely fit into a tiny tunnel that carried out the miners, one by one. What made this amazing feat possible? Collaboration. And a particular type of collaboration: a collaborative web of technological innovation, coming from the four corners of the earth. This was not a story of creative genius; it was a story of small ideas, each from a different team, coming together in Chile.

  1. The drill bit that allowed the just-wide-enough tunnel to be dug. It was created by the company Center Rock, Inc., in Berlin, Pennsylvania.
  2. The high-strength cable that held the capsule was from Germany.
  3. The fiber optic communications cable was from Japan.
  4. The camera that sent photos of the miners to the surface was in a Samsung cell phone that had its own projector.
  5. The miners wore special socks, made with a copper fiber, that prevented bacteria from infecting the miners’ feet. Those came from Cupron, Inc., in Richmond, Virginia.

This is the nature of innovation today: it brings together many distinct creative ideas. The biggest problems facing the world today are going to take the same kind of collaborative approach. They’re complex problems and they require many distinct creative moments. More likely than not, some of the critical ideas are already out there somewhere. They key to successfully solving the most challenging problems facing the world today: bring people and ideas together into collaborative webs.

Want to learn more about collaborative webs? Reach my book Group Genius, Chapters 8, 9, and 10.

* Thanks to the WSJ article by Daniel Henninger, October 14, 2010, p. A19, and another article by Matt Moffett on September 30.