When it seems I’m the smartest guy in the room, I usually go for a walk. Oh, I’m intelligent enough. We all are. And when accused of being the smartest guy in the room, I never argue. That wouldn’t be bright. The accusation is often a pejorative that comes from the anger or perceived inadequacy (closely related) of the accuser. Accepting that mine may be the lesser ignorance can sometimes be useful in the role of doctor, teacher, coach, parent or older sibling. Usually, I just go for a walk.
The first Saturday in January I walked around UNCW. I felt a little Emersonian in the big room under the dome of blue sky … for a moment. Let’s not get distracted with power rankings. Let’s walk together.
My steps led to the Cameron School of Business. Michael Barber and a diverse local team, who included musician/artist/director Michele Seidman, helped orchestrate the first annual TEDxHAMPSTEAD show headlined by local talent. For those tethered to technology and playing Angry Birds, TED Talks are one of technology’s “next big things.” These lectures…
OK, wait. “Lecture” conjures images of stuffy rooms full of bored human widgets enduring brain-damage for hour upon wasted hour. The only thing lectures have ever been good for is inspiring Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” TED talks are actually cutting-edge performance art that can be freely downloaded whenever you want to take your mind for a walk outside its own comfortable room. They’re well-suited for our ADHD, multi-tasking culture. At around 18 minutes long, TED expands the consciousness without draining time from our already strained temporal budgets. Even the most off-the-wall presenters are entertaining and engaging. Basically, they are funny. That’s no yoke.
As the accident allows, yoke is exactly what inventor/entertainer Jock Brandis used to demonstrate how to successfully re-invent the wheel. The energizing force of the Full Belly Project, Jock isn’t like most of us who have been indoctrinated to believe that re-inventing wheels is a waste of time. I had an “aha!” moment when Jock helped me understand the wheel may have been re-invented over 100,000 times, with probably a lot more ahead.
He and his team are now revolutionizing Stone Age oxen yoke technology. This may not seem like much to us, but most of the world’s farmers don’t run on a John Deere. More efficient oxen can impact survival. And as Jock pointed out, “No invention is ever finished.”
South Topsail Elementary School Principal (and Wells Fargo Principal of the Year) AnnaMaria Romero-Lehrer danced to the platform in style and entertained with a lifetime of observations. I bet she’s never lectured in her life. She’s intense, funny and showed how individual learning styles interact (often poorly) with industrialized education.
I wished she was my teacher.
UNCW’s professor David Weber connected with humor while constructing four pillars of communication. Local musician and teacher David Pell sang about his “1 + 1 Can Be” approach to stimulating individual creativity in his students. Most of us reflexively assume that 1 + 1 = 2. Mr. Pell didn’t dispute that, or get all relativistic about possible parallel universes in which 1+ 1 = 2.5. He reminded us that rote memory of music or any field of “facts” does not lead to creativity. (Researcher Charles Limb did brain-imaging with jazz and rap artists and found the brain areas lighting up when artists improvise lines of music or verse differ dramatically from brain areas that light up regurgitating memorized lines. Yes, I learned it on TED, “Your Brain on Improv.”)
One of the day’s consistent themes seemed to be that when we don’t trap ourselves with that “smartest guy in the room” power-ranking, big-fish-eats-little-fish-hierarchical-hyper-competitive crap, we generate a wider range of good solutions to the many complex problems we face.
I finished the day up at “Zero Dark Thirty.” Confirming my suspicions, Superman didn’t locate Osama. Teams of individuals making mistake after mistake for a decade located him. The take-away line for me was when CIA Chief Leon Panetta asks what his lead intelligence analyst thinks of the agent providing information on Osama’s whereabouts The analyst says, “She’s smart.”
Panetta responds, “We all are.”