The Missing Piece

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One of the least known things about change is how to deal with it before we have to deal with the negative results. No change is completely beneficial or completely non-beneficial. There is always a mix, including the lack of either a positive or negative benefit.

So often we see some new technology arriving that leads to a Rah Rah, gamechanging blah bah situation, with a rush of people joining in. I remember that about the time I moved to Poland there were dozens of computer shops being set up, all of which eventually closed to be replaced by mobile phone shops. If something becomes fashionable, there is a rush to be part of it. So does a large number of failures have to accompany change? Yes and no.

As a development engineer it was my job to create and then eliminate failures, because the finance had already been set aside to pay for the failures. Failures here are good, because they set the boundaries of what is possible and forces us to think about what we are trying to achieve.

In general business there is no finance for the failures, because failure should be avoided by appropriate learning beforehand, and then if failure is met then an expert can be called in to fix what has gone wrong. This is a largely unplanned failure process, one that can only be fixed by people who understand how to create a planned failure process.

Unfortunately, education teaches people to believe in the power of courses and experts, which leads to unplanned failure processes, because educators are mostly the products of courses. They are never there when we meet the unplanned failure.

Therefore, the next time someone suggests getting a cat to solve your problems, ask yourself whether they will be there for you when you meet failure.

 

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Knowing the Bill and Mary Story

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Involvement can be a wonderful thing.

Some time ago I began an occasional series of images showing a 1950/60s biker, often interacting with a woman I had begun drawing earlier. They are my wife and I, in a way, as we were born in the 50s and 60s and grew up surrounded with images of what was then the present or recent past. My wife rode many times on a bike as a pillion behind her father, and I can ride as well even though I have never had a licence. By the time we met events had led to me letting go all the bikes that I still had, even the one that I resuscitated and heavily modified from a rusty wreck We have never been on a bike together, but why should that limit our participation on the page?

Knowledge is an amazingly infinite thing – and what we know is a microscopic fraction of all that there is to know. Society encourages us to learn more, always more, even though not-much plus not-much is still not-much, so why is ‘more’ important? What drives this need to learn more? Well, I think I have an answer.

Knowledge is considered like the seeds of plants, in that it comes in many forms and should lead to growth and a fresh crop of knowledge. My question is: If we sat on a chair in an otherwise empty room, with a seed in our hand, how would we get that seed to grow to create a fresh crop? Logically, if we refrained from eating the seed, lay on the floor with the seed on our chest then it is conceivable that after we die our decomposing body could result in the seed germinating in our formally mortal remains. Knowledge, like a seed, is not enough, there has to be interactions with non-seed, non-knowledge things to achieve any result.

Now here comes the important part: knowing that an interaction with something else exists is a piece of knowledge in itself, but our memories are limited to a fixed amount of such knowledge. We know that we need soil and water to grow the seeds, but we do not know what else might also achieve the same unless we have learned about that as well. There could be hundreds of ways of getting a crop out of our seeds without using soil and water, but how are we to know when knowledge is infinite and we know such a small fraction of it?

Involvement is a good way of gaining knowledge, but experimenting with the alternatives can lead us to questions about the knowledge we never thought to learn. Placing my wife and I on a motorcycle is one way to create thoughts about our actual relationship, and how it would affect it.

Dreams Being Made of Broken Things

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One of the things that I wonder about is why in management meetings a lot of people talk about thinking in the box, out of the box, up in a helicopter, down in a submarine, in fact anywhere rather than where it can occur most often – while driving.

In fact I would say that driving was the universally most wasted part of most people’s lives, or sitting on a train, on a bicycle, walking, or however else one might be travelling to or from work, or simply the shops. I even see people doing stupid things, like using their phones while driving, or those managers in their business expresses trying to win in their over-priced cars driving to their over-priced homes to live what is left of their over-priced lives in a manager-ghetto in a site formerly known as a village or small town – wasting that precious time doing anything but think.

By thinking I do not mean that stuff that passes thinking, which is running through one’s memories looking for some answer, and which our education systems excel at most – learning the answers. Even worse is that supposed answer to education of ‘they should be teaching children to solve problems’, but which is precisely what they are doing, solving pre-set problems.

What do you do if there is no known answer yet, and no known way of arriving at the solution? What should we call that? Pre-thinking? Or perhaps just plain old creativity?

When I was  a child I began learn something important about the world, and then, as is the way of things, many years later I came to understand what I had learnt. Remember when we were given some new toy and it was so wonderful and shiny that we were almost afraid that we might scratch its paintwork, and yet the adults around kind of expected us to somehow do something amazing with it without damaging it? Encouraging children to want new toys can be a terrible way of encouraging creativity, because they can either be afraid to damage them or become so accustomed to getting new things that the wanting takes over from creativity.

Now I am not going to whine on here about how better it was in the past – it was not, I remember being there, and we all plotted to escape into our present world. Well, except those so old then that they had realized the world they built did not give them the comforts of youth.

Broken things don’t matter, and because they don’t matter we are free to do with them what we will, even chop them up for firewood, unless they are so old that they have achieved classic status. The midlife of brokenness is our ideal, where we can smash one toy car into another with gay abandon.

The thing about creative thinking is that we need both a time to think it and something to think about, and travelling is a good start as we often consider it a broken time that we should really have more fun with. Creativity is never going to come out of a book, as books are already full of things past; instead it has to come out of our life and the things that are in our hands, or in our heads. The trick then is learning how to fill our hands and heads with broken things, and how to break things so that they become mere material for our further dreams. The knowing the when and the where of breaking takes practice, as it is a skill like any other. The more we fill our lives with nice, finished things, the less space there is for our broken things, less time for the practice.

But is it not sad to be surrounded by broken things? Yes, if we do not want to be creative and would rather sit in a gallery of other people’s work, no if we want our equivalent of an artist’s studio and see the things we have made that never existed before we thought them.

While we travel we have our own time to think through the plans we have for our broken things. For me it might be a composition for a picture, or some function for a program that I am creating in parallel to whatever is working now. Creativity follows a saw-tooth like path, where we build and build until whatever it is gets big, then we look into it for the patterns, and break those big things down into smaller, faster, cheaper things. And so it goes on.

Everything takes practice and time, and creativity requires the kind of time we never used before, otherwise we just continue to keep repeating the old thoughts, the old patterns, in new surroundings they no longer fit.

 

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