I’m writing from a new studio. A new office.
And a new beginning.
DK’s creative team for 2020 got together and discussed what it is we want to work out this year.
Some people have already been informed about this. And others are just joining the conversations, both virtually and in real life, through our calls for interest.
We decided ‘Design & Discovery.’
So many reasons. Why does it matter? Why should anyone care? Why is going and seeking worthwhile, anyways? Is it the life of luxury, for those who can afford it? (Spoiler: no.) What matters, we believe, is the curiosity of what else there might be ‘out there’ and a shifting away from this stagnation some of us feel, magnetized and rooted as we are to ‘the way it’s always been.’
Status quo thinking, a mathematician friend helped me understand, keeps people from exploring new ideas. I reconnected with SHR in London because I was there to host a conversation party called ‘N’. It was meant to be an exercise in finding new people , and gathering us for a short moment to connect about a topic. In this case, ‘noteworthiness.’ As we talked together about what makes something remarkable, naturally the conversation turned to the unremarkable nature of most offices, when it comes to how people work together. The more I pressed with my line of questioning, in that small pub conversation, to investigate the reason why stuff stays boring, the more I learned from him, about howcome this is a block for so many people. ‘People like things to be the way they always have been.’
And there’s more. Thinking reflectively, and making time for that, is costly (in terms of mindshare, not actually doing it, right?) Over time, even supremely talented and creative people who get boxed up like this begin to become less talented and less creative.
What did Banksy say?
This, and I’m paraphrasing, but…: that the best and most creative minds of our time are not making great art, but figuring out how to get you to click on stuff? That. Kind of thing. Is what happens. How many dull conversations have you had in the last five days? Think about it. How many really great ones? What was the difference? Why do you think the more intriguing people and conversations are the way they are?
New angles and perspectives
But why, I kept asking, why don’t people want to try to grow and change? Answer, that time, and pretty much every time I’ve asked since: ‘Because it’s hard.’
Let me tell you a quick story.
I was living in the same house, a spacious three-story villa, with about five people. Funny that I developed so little of a relationship with any of them that I cannot even recall how many there were. But one. Of them. Was kind of the ‘head’ of the house, you could say. An alpha female type. A late twentysomething or perhaps early thirtysomething single woman who was part of an NGO.
The day I knew it was ending badly between us was the day I asked her what she wanted to do in life.
The key moment came when she blasted me for asking her more questions about ‘why’ she does what she does. I asked, ‘Have you thought about that, though? Have you explored more deeply into those questions of why this matters?’ In a fit, she exclaimed
‘I don’t want to think about the future! It’s just going to stress me out!’
I was perplexed. Wasn’t she a bigwig in a big, French NGO? Was that how people were thinking about their organizations, too? So what was… But I just said stuff. ‘This kind of thinking is not going to win humanity points on the soccer field of Combatting Wicked Problems.’
‘Are you sure you don’t want to be intentional here?’
‘No! I’m going to go back to Paris and do something else, now. I’m going to be either a kindergarten teacher, a journalist. I can’t decide. Or a farmer.’
Drafting the story, as you go
Many of the better teachers encourage another way of thinking, one that is aimed at fresh ways of enticing students to find new ways of looking at things.
Approaching problems differently, after all, led people like Michael Faraday to breakthroughs in how electricity and magnetism relate, for example, or scholars elsewhere in other times whose names we cannot know because they were not recorded for the history books.
Fact, right? Let’s just tell it like it is. Still, they’ve done work, too. It’s in our collective human unconscious memory, too, so it’s there. It’s intriguing. It’s curious. It’s… all of us. Worlds of knowledge, questions, inquiries: we are human, and we quest to know. Faraday was one of those people I read about in my Rise of Modern Science class, one of the most exciting ones I took, a seminar in the evenings so a very different flow, vibe, and set of fellow students. This was part of my undergrad, for my civil engineering degree. Here’s why I got into Faraday. Just look at all that his tinkering led to…
According to Wikipedia, Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867) was an “excellent experimentalist who conveyed his ideas in clear and simple language.” Although Faraday received little formal education, his most important contributions were in electromagnetism and electrochemistry.
Importantly, James Clerk Maxwell took the work of Faraday and others and summarized it in a set of equations which is accepted as the basis of all modern theories of electromagnetic phenomena. On Faraday’s uses of lines of force, Maxwell wrote that they show Faraday, who didn’t have much math behind him from formal education, but was a whiz elsewhere, “to have been in reality a mathematician of a very high order – one from whom the mathematicians of the future may derive valuable and fertile methods.”
Let’s pay attention, here, to what’s being said. That there is a benefit in just bumping into things because of sheer not-being-educated in the ‘way it’s always been done.’
Let’s let that sink in.
Led to experimenting, which led us to what came next.
“[Faraday’s] main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis. It was by his research on the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a direct current that Faraday established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics. Faraday also established that magnetism could affect rays of light and that there was an underlying relationship between the two phenomena. He similarly discovered the principles of electromagnetic induction and diamagnetism, and the laws of electrolysis. His inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology, and it was largely due to his efforts that electricity became practical for use in technology. As a chemist, Faraday discovered benzene, investigated the clathrate hydrate of chlorine, invented an early form of the Bunsen burner and the system of oxidation numbers, and popularised terminology such as “anode“, “cathode“, “electrode” and “ion“….’
The Art of Not Knowing
Our new focus at this website and in our magazine, and how we will share the journey towards gathering new content for it, may, for you reading the slick, glossy, and hyper-content-create-y things that are all over the place on the internet, sheesh, that are designed to recommend and autosuggest that you think certain things and convince you to buy stuff you don’t really need, might seem baffling here.
DK will not mind, though, this public bumbling towards that which is intriguing, to us.
Because not-knowing is fine.
It’s actually normal, and natural, and honest.
Who sprouts out of the ground fully formed? That’s what I learned when working out the Q&A, ‘Sharpen and Heighten’, with science podcaster, Jai Ranganathan.
Finding people to talk to about ‘discovery’
From a practical point of view, you have to have to know how to discover. There are a lot of reasons for this, if you are interested in, for example, improving. That means, getting better.
Which is a personal goal, for some, and a work-related one, for others.
Why they do what they do. Why it’s important to think that through is obvious to anyone who has had a transition in life that is majorly major. Someone dies. A relationship ends. An important person goes away. There are countless reasons that we begin to evaluate questions like: ‘What am I doing, really? Why does it matter? And why should anyone care?’ But that is out of scope, here. We are focusing today, in this post, on the important question of: ‘Why discovery as a study and practice even matters, anyway.’
According to Teach-Nology.com, ‘New and innovative methods have become commonplace in schools, colleges and universities, and one of these interesting methods of learning is discovery learning… Discovery learning is a kind of teaching that is based on the student finding things out for themselves, looking into problems, and asking questions.
‘Essentially, it’s all about students coming to their own conclusions and asking about things in their course that might not make particular sense.
‘Obviously, as soon as enquiries are made, they can learn new things and hence will have become part of an innovative, thought-provoking and interesting educational journey. Top psychologists… have promoted this kind of learning.’
And the next thing to do now, is to seek new voices and feature people whose work is helping us all learn how to discover, and how to do it better. Some keywords that are related to this: systems thinking, innovative thinking, creative thinking, lateral thinking.
All that to say: how do we look at this in new ways?
It’s all here, the pieces are in front of us, but what else is there?
What are we not seeing? Let’s learn about that.
S P A C E | 2020, ‘Design & Discovery’
Hence, given the above, this blog is about to change. In scope, and in form and in function, too. Very different outfits, we’re trying on here, these days.
But you’ll still hear me write, straight up, without formality usually.
DK, to you. About the meaningfulness of discovery and how to do it, and why we share about that.
‘It’s a party.’
‘Anything can happen.’
‘And anything does.’
‘Sure. At the beginning, it always is.’
‘Why are you the person to tell me about this, though?’
‘… let me get my notebook… I’ll put it into next week’s issue, okay?’…
- The peer-to-peer coaching circle about this topic, is something else that I’ll be hosting alongside this blog. Ask me about it? Here’s the form to use for that.
- Even more info when you subscribe to our e-mag, S P A C E