Thursday, 23 October 2014

Travel back to the 'Going Wrong Point'.

'...the point at which things go wrong may be a new area of exploration that you didn't see initially. You have to keep going back to that point, trying to figure out what to do. Often the problem is that you've just refused to bend the right way.'

Shulamet Ran from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

We do not like making mistakes, causing accidents, getting things wrong. We prefer to distance ourselves from our errors as quickly as possible: get back on track; regain momentum; regain direction. Some of us dislike mistakes so much that we exhort ourselves to do the impossible: 'right first time' after time after time.  

Some of us realise that perfection is impossible, so we commit to learning from our mistakes and moving forward; the two actions merge in our minds: learn move forward.

But what about learning and pausing, learning and changing, learning and going sideways, learning and travelling a less obvious path -- a path perhaps parallel or even opposite to our original intent?

Every going wrong point along our journey towards getting something right is an opportunity to get something right in new, innovative and better ways.

Wilson Greatbatch installed a wrong part into a heart monitoring device. He realised his mistake, but rather than immediately correcting it he was keen to find out how it would affect the device. When he switched the monitor on he heard a regular, heartbeat-like pulse. Intrigued by this effect, Greatbatch altered the direction of his research and became the inventor of the pacemaker.      

Édouard Bénédictus accidently knocked a glass flask off a shelf. Rather than immediately clearing up the mess and continuing his work, he stopped to examine the broken flask. It had not shattered into sharp splinters but had more or less kept its overall shape. Curious, Bénédictus changed the focus of his thinking for a while; he concentrated upon the remains of his accident. He found that the flask had contained a substance which had dried, creating an adhesive layer that stopped the glass shattering. He went on to invent laminated safety glass.    

So, when you realise you've made a mistake (or caused an accident or taken a wrong turn), travel back to your going wrong point. Park yourself there and search for signs and paths you may have missed first time round as you rushed on by.

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