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Day 11/07/2014

John Maeda: The Gift of Ideas, Is the Curse of Doing Nothing …*

Here’s a very important insight from rethinked …* favorite, John Maeda: the gift of ideas, is the curse of doing nothing.

The power of creativity amazes me. My once mentor Tadashi Sasaki told me while I was just starting out, “You have the gift.” I was surprised, “The gift?” Sasaki said, “Yes, the gift of creativity. Did you know it is also a curse?” I wasn’t sure what he meant until many years later. What Sasaki meant, I think, is that it is a real gift to think of all kinds of things you can possibly do. Unfortunately, it can be a curse because it prevents you from ever doing anything at all. You can get started on something, and then immediately derailed because you start to see something completely new elsewhere. And then when you branch off to that, you get off on another tangent. If you are not careful, all you leave is a massive trail of unfinished work with nothing to show for. So the gift of ideas, is the curse of doing nothing.

Whenever students start to think too much, I try to warn them not to think so much, and just do. I wish that was my own idea, but Horace came a long time before me. It is not easy to warn students that they are thinking too much. After all, we are taught in school that it is hard to think. The profession of professors exist because we are thought to be able to think a great deal. So why should the student not think? Maybe what I mean is that over-creative students should not think, because they already think too much. They can waste too much time in the fascinating world of thought. “Doing” is outright dirty in the land of pure academia. There is a saying that supports this mindset with negative connotations, “Those who do, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I would change this to, “Those who are young, should do. Those who teach, should do too.” Do not waste your precious gift while young and able. Do. And do not fear the curse of “the gift.”

What Maeda describes about ‘doing’ being a dirty word in the land of pure academia and the disconnect which that creates for students once they enter the “real” world is something which I and many of my friends have experienced first hand. My first couple years out of school, I learned that no matter how original and holistic your idea may be, if you can’t execute it, it is useless. How might we redress this overemphasis on thinking in schools and academia? How might we help students become fluent in both literacies of doing and thinking?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

think, do & rethink …

Source: The Gift (from ca 2000) | Laws of Simplicity


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