Saturday, June 20, 2009

Channeling My Annoyance

In an insightful book, A Whole New Mind, author Dan Pink tells of the shift of our society toward a world in which the logical, sequential, formerly superior L-directed way of thinking (using the left hemisphere of one's brain) is no longer sufficient.

He suggests that in order to succeed in what he calls the "Conceptual Age", one must be proficient in all the L-directed skills, but also possess a different realm of thinking techniques that occur on the right side. Pink breaks these R-Directed skills into six categories: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. I dug deeper into the element of design to test my right hemisphere's abilities.

At the end of each chapter of the book, Pink presents several simple activities to exercise one's right hemisphere. The activity I tried was one entitled Channel Your Annoyance.

Pink borrowed this suggestion from Stefan Sagmeister.

1. Choose a household item that annoys you in any way.

2. Go by yourself to a cafe with pen and paper, but without a book and without a newspaper, and, for the duration of your cup of coffee, think about improving the poorly designed item.

3. Send the idea/sketch as it is to the manufacturer of your annoying household item.

After reading this, I was inspired to go forth and improve the design of some flawed object. Although I did not do this alone in a cafe with a cup of coffee (I don't drink coffee, you see), I did think of an object (an object that is questionably household, but an object nonetheless) that I could improve.

How many of you have watched clumsy young boys in rented tuxedos knock over an intricate array of candles in an attempt to light them all with one of those long, spear-like candle lighters on America's Funniest Home Videos? Although such a sight might provide a laugh, knocking over lighted candles indoors is extremely dangerous. Think of all the bloopers you've seen in which the wedding dress ignites or the flower arrangements burst into flames because the candles fell over when the ceremonial candle lighters slipped up.

The traditional candle lighter used in weddings looks like this:

With a retractable wick to light multiple candles and a cap to snuff them out later, this design is relatively simple.

I suggest adding a trigger to the base of the wand, where one holds the pole, that would control the release of a small amount of the substance used to extinguish fires in case of emergency. This improvement would not alter the aesthetic appearance of the traditional device, but would greatly decrease the risk of its use.

This exercise forced me to use the creative, "out-of-the-box" type thinking of the right half of my brain. Perhaps, by continually trying simple tasks like this one, I can alter the way I see the world and gain a "whole new mind."