Say WHAT?! That’s our response sometimes to an idea that seems bass-ackwards. My brain has been wrestling with this one. To get to good outcomes sometimes you do better by not trying specifically to get to those outcomes but instead not worrying about outcomes at all.” Alison Gopnik
Say THAT to a teacher pressured to get test scores up, or to a child with Olympic aspirations, or to a mechanic rebuilding an engine! Using specific strategies toward focused goals seems appropriate much of the time. What do you mean don’t worry about outcomes?
Add to that absurdity this confounding image. Take a robot – a creation of nuts/bolts/gizmos and microchips – and design it for a specific task. But…during the building process take a break before fine-tuning the programming and let the robot do its own thing, discover its properties, dance around and play. (Another one of those ‘Say WHAT?!’ ideas). That robot will perform the specific task the same as one denied the play time with this distinction. If its arm falls off or it gets tipped over, it uses the knowledge learned in the play time to figure out how to get the task done anyway. A robot with artificial intelligence can exhibit flexibility and resilience, creativity and innovation, too, when the unexpected occurs.
Life tips us over from time to time. Let’s learn from the robots! Trim schedules so there are moments to play and dance without the pressures of performing to win or finishing shopping/decorating/wrapping in the midst of normal routines. Sit in your favorite chair sipping hot chocolate or mulled cider. Dig out Christmas records or cassettes and sing along. Write a personal message in a Christmas card or two. Make up your own songs as you sing them about the view from your window. Let laughter and relaxation guide you through this hectic holiday time. Surely we can exhibit flexibility, resilience, creativity and innovation if a conglomeration of nuts and bolts can!
(Alison Gopnik is the author of The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children).