A Case Study of Collaborative Brilliance from the Ancient World

A Case Study of Collaborative Brilliance from the Ancient World

Library of Alexandria

In its prime (290 BC to 88 BC), the Library of Alexandria was the fount of the Hellenistic Greek Renaissance. The classics it preserved helped inspire the fifteenth-century European Renaissance.

Then the largest city in the world, Alexandria remained the intellectual capital of the Mediterranean for most of the duration of the Roman Empire. The famous library and its museum at its peak may have held six hundred thousand scrolls—the equivalent of 120,000 modern books.

The library was but one part of the Musaeum of Alexandria, which functioned as a sort of research institute. In addition to the library, the museum included rooms for the study of astronomy, anatomy, and even a zoo of exotic animals.

Alexandria’s museum was an intensely productive community of writers, translators, editors, historians, mathematicians, astronomers, geographers, and physicians.

Here are a few of the well-known collaborators who worked out of the library:

  • Callimachus, the father of the bibliography
  • Eratosthenes, who estimated the diameter of the Earth
  • Aristarchus of Samos, a Sun-centered Copernican 18 centuries before Copernicus
  • Hipparchus, who discovered the precession of the equinoxes

Because of close scholarship and collaborative work environments, canonical editions of classics such as Homer, Plato, and the Athenian playwrights were created and distributed. Later, the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek in Alexandria.

This African city was directly responsible for much of what Europe became.

Alexandria was the focus of many ancient wars and was eventually burned to the ground, library, museum and all.

There were more breakthroughs in more industries than ever before. It was such a concentrated breakthrough effort that has been unrivaled until modern times.

Now, with technology at our fingertips, we can harness similar thinking that made the Library of Alexandria such a powerful concept—collaboration.

A few things stick out in my mind that made this breakthrough concentration possible.

These scholars worked side-by-side and helped each other in cross-disciplinary work. Meaning, they put their egos aside. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re not concerned about who gets credit and payoff.

I mean honestly, if you could cure cancer, AIDS, the power issues in Africa, waterborne disease transfers—who cares who gets the credit?

But maybe that’s just me.

There are so many things that need to be done in the world that when ego gets in the way it chokes out the momentum and progress.

Ego can be good when it’s harnessed, but unchecked, it’s a nightmare to deal with.

Check out how cool collaboration is? I can be writing this part of this post 10,000 kilometers away from where you’re reading this. It’s hosted on a server in the middle of the USA that connects to a server in South Africa. And now is broadcast to your phone, laptop, and tablet.

When we launched our first business nearly a decade ago, we went days without being able to contact one another (with half our team based in the USA & the other in Zim). But now, with tech, we can talk instantaneously.

The Library of Alexandria had to be a physical space in the ancient world. But now we can build a digital Library, recruiting the best people with the best ideas to solve some of the world’s largest problems.

And that’s what Emerging Ideas is all about. Collaboratively coming together to make a difference in our neighborhoods, our cities, our nations, and our world.

I don’t think Business was ever meant to just feed you and your family. It’s meant to be an empowerment tool. An uplifting process that has the power to lift people out of poverty. To shift narratives. To enrich lives and give people hope.

That doesn’t mean you have to start your own thing. Imagine being one of the great mathematician’s assistants in the Library of Alexandria. You may not be the one who directly made the breakthrough, but you were apart of something much larger than yourself that then went on to affect the way we think today (AKA we revolve around the sun).

You can be the main man and run a small operation. And that’s ok. But many of us need a first mate or second in command who can help us build something that touches people across nations.

When collaborating with an awesome team, it doesn’t matter what your rank is—it’s just great to be changing the world with a group of fantastic people.

Who are you changing the world with?

Thanks for reading and being apart of our world-changing tribe. Share this with someone who needs a little encouragement to keep going today.