Over Countless Cups of Coffee

Cooperative Wisdom began with a conversation. A “mature learner” found herself in a seminar being taught by an emeritus professor. He had developed an interesting approach to conflict resolution. She wanted to know more. When the semester ended, they agreed to meet every other week at a local coffee shop.

That coffee shop probably deserves some credit for the book that we finally wrote. We tried a variety of places but found that many coffee shops were too noisy for conversation. Finally, we settled on Bob Evans, one of those quintessential American businesses that started with a truck stop and ended up a chain with over 600 restaurants.

We never ordered their trademark sausages or their famously fluffy biscuits. Instead, we arrived just after the breakfast rush when restaurant space is an underused resource (see Intentional Imagination). Nobody cared if we monopolized a table between 9:30 and 11:30. In time, we had a sort of standing appointment. The waitresses would nod toward the table in the corner when one of us walked in. They didn’t bother to bring us menus. Just coffee. We always tipped generously in exchange for endless refills.

Over cups of coffee too numerous to count, the conversations and transcripts accumulated. Gradually we realized that we were developing a book. Because we enjoyed the back-and-forth of our conversations so much, we decided that the book would also be a dialogue. Our goal was to replicate the energy of what college students used to call a good “bull session.”

Of course, a good book is more than free association, so eventually we hammered out a structure that would help readers understand and remember the five virtues that promote cooperation. The format of the book is a hypothesis (see Inclusive Integrity), and we hope readers will tell us how they feel about it.

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