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The Link Between Power, Courage & Empathy …*

The Link Between Power, Courage & Empathy ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

If you draw a series of parallel lines closely together, and then another series across them at an angle, you have the simplest visual example of the dialectical process. Cross-hatching as they call it. You have the first series of line, then you have the second series in opposition to the first. But out of the two you get a series of diamonds.

Now, if you look at these diamonds, remembering that every one has had to be drawn, you are overwhelmed by the length and complexity of the task. The diamonds are like the future we work for. Yet, courage. The first series of lines is there. All we have to do is to cross them.

– John Berger, A Painter of our Times, 1958


In a fascinating article recently published on The Greater Good Science CenterWhen Courage Goes Bad, Jeremy Adam Smith examines Cynthia Pury’s research on courage–how we experience, perceive and attribute it to others. Courage, it turns out, is often used as a currency of power–we attribute it to those who share our goals while withholding it from those whom we perceive as being outside our self-defined groups.

In the article, Adam Smith examines a recent social media post which stated, “As I see post after post about Bruce Jenner’s transition to a woman, and I hear words like, bravery, heroism, and courage, just thought I’d remind all of us what real American courage, heroism, and bravery looks like!” The post was accompanied by a picture of toy soldiers and went viral, being shared almost a million times. This is a prime example of how we tend to frame courage as a zero-sum game–by calling Caitlyn Jenner courageous, the author of that social media post felt we were detracting from the ‘real’ courage of American armed forces. The withholding of attributing courage to someone’s actions is very much linked to an absence of empathy for their experience. The good news is that how we frame courage is very much a choice. We can choose to see it as a finite resource and guard it jealously only for our own self-perceived groups, or we can choose to acknowledge the vast plurality of human experiences and understand that ultimately, courage depends on the series of lines we each choose to cross.

. . . *

Pury’s research suggests that courage is something we grant to validate certain goals and withhold to invalidate others. While it might seem as though Jenner and an American soldier could both be courageous, in fact we appear to feel a strong impulse to treat courage like a finite resource that goes to some people but not others. Just as we sometimes withhold empathy or compassion from out-groups, so we will refuse to grant that people can be courageous if we don’t approve of their goals or values.

[ … ] 

Pury’s research has found that courage is more likely to emerge when a person sees a meaningful goal and then believes he or she has the ability to achieve that goal, a product of cognitive appraisal she calls “process courage.”

A man is more likely to run into a burning building to save kittens if he has the training and equipment to do so. A man who runs into the building without those things might be seen as courageous—but not, perhaps, very smart. A third man who has the training and equipment but doesn’t see saving kittens as a worthy goal would simply stand on the sidelines. So whether to take action depends on a person’s goals, as well as evaluations of personal risk and his own ability to achieve the goal.

But how will observers view that private decision? Here’s where things get interesting—and debatable.

Much, argued Pury, depends on whether other people share the goal in question. To the community of people who have transitioned from one sex to the other, Jenner is a hero: an accomplished male athlete who was willing to embrace a new celebrity identity as a woman. In this view, it took personal courage to go public with a very intimate decision—and by doing so, pave the way for others with less social power and wealth to follow the same path. She had the resources to create an image for others to pursue.

The conservative reaction was very different. To conservatives, Jenner’s goal—to raise the visibility of transgendered people—is socially destructive.

To a degree, it’s a problem of empathy and group affiliation. “If it’s your lived life, you know that that transition is really important and you value that goal because you’ve pursued it yourself,” said Pury. You would also know firsthand all the barriers and hostility that Jenner would face. Knowing something about her struggle might make her courageous in your eyes.

But to conservatives, all of that pales in comparison to the goal of maintaining rigid barriers between men and women, a dichotomy on which they say the American family depends. In the pages of the National Review, Doug French framed courage as resistance to the trend Jenner represents.

“By refusing to speak, we contribute to the notion that even conservatives understand that something is wrong—something is shameful—about our own deepest beliefs,” he writes. French (an Iraq veteran) is not willing to attribute courage to Jenner, instead granting it to members of his own self-defined group, people who share his values, experiences, and goals.

Source: When Courage Goes Bad by Jeremy Adam Smith via The Greater Good, published July 16, 2015

“I believe in and surrender to solid quality, serendipity and nomadism.” – Our Interview with Dominic Randolph, Head of School & Rethinked Co-Founder …*

"I believe in and surrender to solid quality, serendipity and nomadism." -Our Interview with Dominic Randolph, Head of School & Rethinked Co-Founder ...* |rethinked.org

I may be a bit biased here but I could not be any more excited to share Dominic’s interview today. Dominic Randolph is the Headmaster of the Riverdale Country School, where he has been prototyping various ways to rethink what it means to learn to and for change–notably by exploring the intersections of Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology with education. He is the co-founder of our team and, on a more personal note, my father and one of my very best friends. Connect with Dominic on Twitter @daar17.

What was the last experiment you ran? 

Changing spaces where I work. Finding small “in-between” spaces to work with my computer. Changing work spaces all the time. Not being in a fixed spot.

 

What are some of the things that you fear and how do you manage your fear?

Life is fear and finding ways to embrace fear. I believe that we all have a “Woody Allen voice” in our heads constantly narrating our anxieties. I think you achieve things by listening to the voice indeed, but basically ignoring it. Things tend to turn out most of the time quite well, but the little voice assumes the worst. Acting positively and confidentially mitigates the voice’s affect on one’s decisions. And yet, without the voice, the fear, life would not be as amusing nor would one do anything really. It is the comparison between the status quo of the “little worried voice” and taking action that makes you feel a sense of achievement.

 

What breaks and delights your heart? In other words, what do you believe in and surrender to? 

I believe in and surrender to solid quality, serendipity and nomadism.

 

What is the most provocative idea you’ve come across in the past decade

Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” is one of the most provocative, elegant and most difficult to employ idea that I have come across in the last decade. The other one would be “design thinking” that I read in Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind and on Tim Brown’s blog “Design Thinking”. The concepts of human-centered design, prototyping and divergent thought as elements of design thinking have changed my life.

 

Can you tell me about a transformational moment in your life?

I often think that the most transformational moments are not the most groundbreaking or the most striking. They are small moments that lead to change. The most transformational moments in my life were dinner debates with my aunt, mother and brother while growing up and meeting, Kris, my future wife, and Elsa, my future daughter, at a small gallery in Sarlat, France.

 

 WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

Finding meaning and purpose in one’s life leads to living a good life.

 

 COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN?

Empathize with others–really try to put yourself in their shoes and listen well. Also, draw your thoughts out on a regular basis. Drawing is deeply human.

 

WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

How can I be my better future self? What legacy will I choose to leave on this earth?

 

 ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND?

Movies: Withnail and I by Bruce Robinson, En Sus Ojos by Juan Jose Campanella, Mifune’s Last Song by Soren Kragh-Jacobsen, The Trip by Michael Winterbottom, Naked by Mike Leigh

Books: Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, Le Citte Invisibili by Italo Calvino, Distant Relations by Carlos Fuentes, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos by John Berger, In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin, Any short story by Alice Munro, La Peau du Chagrin by Balzac…

Music: GoldbergVariations played by Glenn Gould, Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones, Every Breaking Wave by U2, Ink by Coldplay, Heysatan by Sigur Ros, Wait it Out by Imogen Heap, Afterlife by Arcade Fire, Bien Avant by Benjamin Biolay, 400 Lux by Lorde, Creep by Radiohead…

Images: Morandi still lives, Piranesi etchings, Cartier-Bresson photographs, Cindy Sherman portraits, Klein blue paintings, Henry Moore sculptures…

THANK YOU, DOMINIC!

. . .

“How can I make my life as full as possible?” – Our Interview with Adventurer Alastair Humphreys …*

"How can I make my life as full as possible?" Our Interview with Adventurer Alastair Humphreys ...* | rethinked.org

Alastair Humphreys

I am delighted to share our second interview, this time with adventurer and authorAlastair Humphreys. Among his various adventures, Alastair has biked around the world, walked across India and rowed the Atlantic. These days, he is working hard to help us rethink our rather narrow assumptions about adventures as epic time-consuming and costly expeditions in faraway places by pioneering the concept of microadventures for which he has been named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. Cheap, simple, yet effective, microadventures are “short, perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home.” Alastair also runs a fabulous blog filled with inspiring and informative content which is sure to tickle and trigger your wanderlust. He has a delightful new film on vimeo about an imaginary journey round Scotland, linking together wild bothies and landscapes. Connect with Alastair on Twitter @Al_Humphreys.

 WHAT WAS THE LAST EXPERIMENT YOU RAN?

The microadventures I have been doing in the last few years have become very popular and people are now far more interested in me than they were back when I cycled round the world and was working hard to make a go of the world of epic expeditions. I find it amusing that people are more interested in me sleeping on my local hill for a night! So that felt like quite a big risk when I switched direction.

 WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

I fear getting old, wasting my opportunities and my potential. I am not sure I manage it very well. It makes me rather incapable of relaxing or having fun! I suppose I manage it by trying to do something about it: I don’t want to get old and regret things, so I try to just get on and do stuff rather than just dreaming about it.

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEAR? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?

People achieving extraordinary things in their field. This often manifests itself through elite sport, but I also loved the film The Theory of Everything for those reasons. I’m also really moved by wild, empty, quiet and beautiful places. I wanted to combine wilderness and doing something extraordinary through my expeditions.

WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?

I’m not sure this is quite what you are looking for, but the increase in our sedentary lifestyles, screen addiction, getting fat and unfit and disconnected from the world’s wild places all make me frightened, sad, angry, and determined not to end up that way myself.


 CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

Climbing on my bike outside my front door to cycle round the world was a key moment. A minute before I was someone who had never done anything exciting, but dreamed of it. And now, here I was, actually doing it.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

To make the most of your potential and your opportunities. To be kind and to make the world a little better than you found it. To laugh a lot with friends.

COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN? 

When you look at successful people, do not make the mistake of thinking that they are better than you in anyway. And do not make the mistake of equating success with guaranteed happiness.

WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION? 

How can I make my life as full as possible?

ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND? 

http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/adventure-reading-101/

…*

Thank you, Alastair!

“Empathy is feeling into someone else” – Tiffany Shlain: What We Can Do Today To Rethink Our Potential …*

"Empathy is feeling into someone else" - Tiffany Shlain: What We Can Do Today To Rethink Our Potential ...* |rethinked.org

Screen Shot from Tiffany Shlain’s TED MED Talk, Summarizing our Unique Human Strengths …*

“Let’s do a little cross-disciplinary thinking right now. I want you to sit and I want you to think of your biggest challenge–everyone in this room, we’ve all got a challenge that we’re wrestling with–think of the three people that you’ve talked to about that challenge. Now I want you to try to think of three people in completely different areas that you could talk to about that problem. What would a car mechanic say? What would a biologist say? What about an artist? What about a child? How would they approach your problem? That’s cross-disciplinary thinking and the more you do it, and the more you think that way, the more it will just naturally come. And I think that we’re all talking about multi-tasking but we need to be talking about multi-perspectiving, which is not a word–so, multi-thinking. And how do we bring that more into our everyday challenges?” – Tiffany Shlain

In this inspiring and moving TED MED talk, filmmaker and rethinked …* favorite, Tiffany Shlain, examines some of the things we can each do today to rethink our human potential and evolve ourselves. Stressing the need for cross-displinary thinking and cultivating our unique human strengths, Shlain creates a compelling and hopeful portrait of the potential of humanity to connect as we transcend the challenges of the twenty-first century.

“We are connected to billions of people’s ideas and perspectives that we can cross-disciplinary think with. And when you get that kind of collision of different perspectives, that is when breakthroughs happen. It’s also when empathy happens. And empathy is another incredible thing that distinguishes us as humans, that even the most sophisticated machines can’t experience. I loved learning this when I was researching empathy–empathy is feeling into someone else. I love that: feeling into them. And I think that when you see someone struggling, you’re feeling into them and you want to help them, you want to change their experience. So it’s interesting to think about empathy leads to compassion, leads to action. We need more empathy and action in this world, right? We definitely need that. So how are we going to do that? And the good news is that it’s through stories, through listening to people, through sharing stories, that is the way that you feel empathy. And when you hear a story it activates all these different parts of your brain and also, what it does, is it adapts your thinking. When you hear a story it can change the way you think about something. It can also synchronize your mind with someone else when you tell a story. And we think of our brains as private, as the only truly private thing we have, but we forget that our brains are incredibly public. The brain is a communal organ, it is our window on the world and it’s what allows us to connect with the world and contribute to the world.”

A Most Delightful Response to Life’s Nagging Questions: “Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility”

A Most Delightful Response to Life's Nagging Questions: "Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility" | rethinked.org

Artist Unknown

This week, I found myself puzzling about life–puzzling more than usual that is. I lost myself in questions about passion, purpose, action, fear, choices, growing up, courage, art and pain. No need for alarm, this happens every year about a month before my birthday comes around. I find myself undergoing a tiny annual existential crisis, where I question everything, worry that the gap between my actual self (my behaviors, patterns and habits?) and my “ideal” self is widening rather than shrinking and neurotically overthink the connections between thinking, doing and becoming.

The good news about all this mental time travel I undergo each year is that recent studies have found self-projection to be correlated with a greater sense of meaning. What’s a little annual mental anguish over all of one’s life choices in exchange for a meaningful life?

Several lines of work seem to converge on the idea that self-projection is a valuable exercise. Mentally traveling in time, imagining other places, and stepping into other people’s minds can give people a sense of meaning in life. Researchers have found that engaging in nostalgia, the process of sentimentally reflecting on past events, produces reports of greater meaning in life. Projecting oneself forward into the future—whether through hopeful thinking or considering one’s legacy after death—has also been associated with elevated reports of meaning in life.

[ . . . ]

In five additional studies, we found that having people project themselves forward or backward in time or into other geographic locations—compared with having people think about the present—boosted their subsequent reports of meaning in life. The reason for this link turned out to be deceptively simple. When our research participants considered life beyond the present moment, they often conjured up events and places that were more profound, meaningful, and awe-inspiring than the current moment. – Step Outside Yourself: Meditation says to focus on the present. But life may be more meaningful if you don’t.

…*

When I start to become overwhelmed by questions, I generally turn to the artists for insight and guidance. I’ve written a lot about the creative process on rethinked …* and shared countless insights from various artists. That’s because an artist, by definition–at least by my definition–is someone who owns, cultivates and deploys his or her own distinctive voice. At the end of the day, I don’t believe someone without a particular point of view and the ability and desire to express said point of view can be considered an artist. So I was excited to see this short video featuring French high-wire artist and general creative “outlaw,” Philippe Petit on what it means to live as an artist:

“Anyone that embarks into the arts, and even if you’re not an artist or a performer, in the art of living as an extension, will have the most difficult life because it’s the opposite of lethargy and laziness and dragging your feet and dying as you live. So if you want your life to be exciting, if you find the motor necessary for a great life, which is passion, you will have a difficult life and at the same time your life will be very easy in a sense that you will not have to struggle to find ways, it is in you, it devours you, you have to do it–using your intuition and your passion. So, for example, well people sometimes ask me, “how can I be creative?” Or. “I am a young artist and I want to develop my art.” And right there, I build a big wall between two concepts that to me are very opposite: the concept of a career and the concept of life. So, if somebody says, “You know, I am starting a career as an actor, do you have any advice?” I say, “Yes, drop the word career from your vocabulary—LIVE as an actor, you know? Don’t try to do things in a strategic way, do things as your heart tells you. If you feel you are a comic character, do not accept any drama, go into the comic and start developing it. The work of art is a perpetual trampoline; it is ephemeral; it is fragile; it is mysterious. There is no rule to describe what an artistic way of life is. So if you want to go in an artistic way of life and you carry the luggage of money and time and strategy and politics, well you will never be an artist. You know? But it’s fine, many false artists are doing that. But the true artist, in my opinion, should not think of a career, you should think of your life.

 . . . *

When the questions become overwhelming, or when one cannot find an entry way into living one’s life as one wants, Van Gogh has the perfect remedy:

Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility.

You don’t know how paralyzing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can’t do anything. The canvas has an idiotic stare, and mesmerizes some painters so that they turn into idiots themselves.

Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas IS AFRAID of the truly passionate painter who dares—and who has once broken the spell of ‘you can’t.’

Life itself likewise always turns towards one an infinitely meaningless, discouraging, dispiriting blank side on which there is nothing, any more than on a blank canvas.

But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that, in short, breaks, ‘violates’—they say.

Let them talk, those cold theologians.

Advice from Van Gogh: Just Slap Something on It

. . . *  

Finally, I think I’ve shared this before, but when I am anxious or puzzled or just generally blue I go straight to the bookstore. Earlier this week, while browsing the children’s books–which I love as I truly believe most children understand very deeply and intuitively a lot of things we forget and unlearn and complicate terribly as we grow older–I discovered Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (who also coauthored the sublime Duck Rabbit book). It’s the charming story of an exclamation mark who feels out of place amongst the other punctuation marks until he meets a question mark who, through her endless questions, helps him discover his voice!! Enjoy …* 

{ On Connection & Decision-Making } Thinking About Motivation, Empathy & Storytelling …*

{ On Connection & Decision-Making } Thinking About Motivation, Empathy & Storytelling ...* |rethinked.org - photograph: Elsa Fridman

 When researchers study the brains of people trying to predict the thoughts and feelings of others, they can actually see a difference in the brain activity depending on whether that person is trying to understand a friend versus a stranger. Even at the level of blood flowing through your brain, you treat people you know well differently than people you don’t. – Teens These Days, Always Changing Their Gray Matter

This week had me thinking about the role of connection and feelings of connectedness in decision-making processes. Some of the findings coming out of decision research, which I’ve featured below, raise some very intriguing and urgent questions about the role of empathy and the need to think more carefully about the types of narratives we craft when trying to motivate people to take action or trigger generous behaviors.

“It turns out that our engagement with a cause– it’s not about numbers, it’s not about classes of victims, it’s really about two things: First of all, it’s emotional and it’s with individuals. We have evolved, we are hardwired to feel a certain amount of empathy and connection but with one other person, whom we see, whom we can relate to, not with a hundred thousand people half a world away. The other thing is that we want to feel like we’re having an impact so we want some kind of a positive arch, we want to see a difference being made. And so when aid organizations talk about 5 million people at risk and make it sound terribly depressing, they’re precisely hitting the buttons that turn people off.”

In this Big Think video Nicholas Kristof explores the kinds of connections that link us to social and humanitarian causes and motivate us to give, participate and take action.

“Some of the research about our preference for helping individuals over classes of people comes from experiments where people were asked to contribute in some cases to this child–when it was used, was Rokia, a girl from West Africa–versus a large group of people, millions of people suffering malnutrition in Africa again. And of course, everybody wanted to contribute to Rokia, to that girl, they wanted to help that girl, they didn’t really care about the millions of people being malnourished. But what was striking is that even though we intellectually know that, “one death is a tragedy and a million deaths is a statistic,” that the point at which we begin to be numbed, is when that number, is when N equals two. The moment you added not just Rokia but had a boy next to her and said, “you can help these two hungry kids,” then people were less likely to contribute than if it was just Rokia. Likewise, people are less likely to contribute to a fund to save kids from cancer if the same amount of money is going to save not one life but eight lives. There really is this bias to help an individual. So we have to figure out, obviously the needs are vast, so we have to figure out how to open these lines of communication to move people at an emotional level to help an individual; but then use that empathy then to broaden and to serve so many other people who need help.”

Kristof’s talk had me thinking about Brene Brown’s definition of empathy and how it compares in particular to sympathy: Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection. Since our ability to empathize with another person is so dependent on our ability to imagine what it must be like to experience a situation from that person’s point of view, I wonder if thinking about multiple people’s pain or needs makes the illusion that we can share in another’s subjective experience, that we can imagine what it feels like from their perspective, more fragile and difficult to buy into. Could it be that stories and aid campaigns that focus on a single individual drive empathy and consequently the necessary feelings of connection that trigger action while campaigns using groups of people drive sympathy and thus disconnection?

“One of the things that really struck me was there had been experiments that asked people to do some math equations, solve some math problems first, and it turns out that if you do that, that if you exercise the more rational parts of your brain, then you’re less empathetic, you’re less likely to contribute. Those of us who care about these issues, we need to figure out how to do a better job of storytelling about individuals and showing that there is a possibility of hope.”

I think Kristoff raises a very worthy challenge about the need to craft better stories. You may remember a video I shared on here last month that looked precisely at How Stories Can Change Our Behavior By Changing Our Brain Chemistry …* The short video examines the link between empathy, the narrative arc, neurochemistry and behavior by focusing on some of the findings emerging from Paul Zak‘s, a founding pioneer in the nascent field of neuroeconomics, research:

Monitoring the brain activity of hundreds of study subjects watching a video with a simple narrative, Zak found increases in the levels of the neurochemicals oxytocin and cortisol, which are associated with empathic responses. Most remarkable, however, was the discovery that this response also resulted in study subjects taking action, in this case through donating money they had just earned to a charitable cause related to the story they watched and even to fellow subjects. Zak’s conclusion that there could be a universal story structure that functions to connect us to each other might not be surprising to storytellers, but seeing it supported by neuroscience is a tale worth repeating. 

. . . *

Now for a different aspect of decision-making, on New York Magazine’s Science of Us blog, in her article 4 Steps to Making an Overwhelming Decision Easy, Melissa Dahl highlights a recent study on the best decision-making strategy to adopt when faced with multiple options that “all seem kind of okay, like when you’re choosing a health-care plan or looking for a new apartment.”

Tibor Besedes at the Georgia Institute of Technology led a study — published recently in The Review of Economics and Statistics — that pitted three decision-making strategies against each other, and the best strategy was the one that treated the process like a tournament, 
  1. Divide the options into piles of four
  2. Choose the best option from each pile
  3. Put the winners from the first round into a new finalist pile
  4. Choose the best option from winners of the earlier four selections

Jugaad: A Hindi Concept for “Spotting Opportunities in Adverse Circumstances & Improvising Solutions Using Simple Means”

Jugaad: A Hindi Concept for "Spotting Opportunities in Adverse Circumstances & Improvising Solutions Using Simple Means" | rethinked.org

“Jugaad is a Hindi word meaning an innovative fix or an improvised solution born from ingenuity. Jugaad is the gutsy art of spotting opportunities in the most adverse circumstances and resourcefully improvising solutions using simple means. Jugaad is about seeing the glass always half-full.”  – Navi Radjou

I came across the term “jugaad” yesterday while reading a listicle on Mother Nature Network about  7 cultural concepts we don’t have in the U.S. I was struck by how closely the Hindi concept resonated with the way our team has framed, constructed and explored the idea of rethinking–as being about making do with what we have by reframing problems into opportunities instead of constantly trying to reinvent the wheel or start things anew. For us, rethinking is a method and framework for innovating and creating smart solutions to the myriad problems–big and small–that crop up in our lives, work and communities. But rethinking is also a value, a belief in living lightly, in making the most in a world of shrinking resources and increasing complexity. It is a relentless commitment and belief in our collective ability to enhance our lives and those of others.

Jugaad is a Hindi word that means “an innovative fix” or a “repair derived from ingenuity,” — think a jury-rigged sled for snowy fun, or a bicycle chain repaired with some duct tape. It’s a frequently used word in India where frugal fixes are revered. But the idea has further merit beyond figuring out solutions to get by with less. It also encapsulates the spirit of doing something innovative. As the authors of Jugaad Innovation write in Forbes, they see jugaad in many other places than the repair shop: “In Kenya, for instance, entrepreneurs have invented a device that enables bicycle riders to charge their cellphones while pedaling. In the Philippines, Illac Diaz has deployed A Litre of Light — a recycled plastic bottle containing bleach-processed water that refracts sunlight, producing the equivalent of a 55-watt light bulb — in thousands of makeshift houses in off-the-grid shantytowns. And in Lima, Peru (with high humidity and only 1 inch of rain per year), an engineering college has designed advertising billboards that can convert humid air into potable water.”

Source: 7 cultural concepts we don’t have in the U.S

After reading the Forbes article, I researched the term and found an article on Harvard Business Review where Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja–the authors of Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth (2012)– outline four operating principles for innovating the Jugaad way:

  1. Thrift not waste. This first rule — which promotes frugality — helps tackle scarcity of all forms of resources.
  2. Inclusion, not exclusion. This second rule helps entrepreneurial organizations to put inclusiveness into practice — by tightly connecting with, and harnessing, the growing diversity that permeates their communities of customers, employees, and partners.
  3. Bottom-up participation, not top-down command and control. This third rule drives collaboration. CEOs who tend to act as conductors must learn to facilitate collaborative improvisation just as players in jazz bands do.
  4. Flexible thinking and action, not linear planning. This fourth rule facilitates flexibility in thinking and action. Jugaad-practicing firms are highly adaptable as they aren’t wedded to any single business model and pursue multiple options at any time.

Source: Jugaad: A New Growth Formula for Corporate America

What are some opportunities for jugaad in your community? 

“Everything changes, every day, which is the glory & curse of things” -Maira Kalman on Navigating Through It All …*

"Everything changes, every day, which is the glory & curse of things" -Maira Kalman on Navigating Through It All ...* | rethinked.org

“Everything changes, every day, which is the glory and curse of things. You can’t rely on anything, but you can rely on navigating through it all—or at least one hopes.” 

I was thrilled to see that this week’s guest on The Great Discontent is rethinked * favorite, Maira Kalman. With her usual keen sense of observation, whimsy and honesty, Kalman shares various insights on her life and work. Here are some highlights from the interview, which I encourage you to read in full.

*

–  g r o w t h   m i n d s e t   &   g r i t – 

I think I’m incredibly lucky because I had the patience and perseverance and single-mindedness to believe that I belonged in that world. It took a very long time to become an illustrator, and I had all kinds of odd jobs along the way. However, I had the good fortune to meet a man who had the same kind of philosophical outlook that I did: we were both curious and had a sense of humor, and we believed we could do whatever we wanted. For us, New York was an optimistic place. Yes, it can be a very difficult place, but we thought there was nothing we couldn’t do—it would just take time. So we found our way by working hard.

Whenever anyone asks me, “What will happen? How will I do in this world?,” I say I don’t know. You’ll either do it or you won’t do it; you’ll stick with it or you won’t; or something else will happen to inform it. There’s no prediction. You have a feeling and you try to do the best you can.

*

– t a k i n g   r i s k s   &   d e a l i n g   w i t h   f e a r   t h r o u g h   w o r k – 

Tibor and I grew up together, and I learned a tremendous sense of work ethic and fearlessness from him. I’m not saying I don’t have fears—I have many, many fears. But Tibor was the kind of person who said, “You can have an idea. That’s fine, but why don’t you make the idea happen,” which is a whole other thing to do. His belief in work and in finding yourself through work was an extraordinary learning for me.

*

– w a l k i n g  – 

I love to walk, and this [New York] is the best walking city in the world. There is more inspiration in a walk around the block than I could ever catalogue. I could write a book about every walk I take. Besides being the cultural center of the world and home to all of the museums I live in, the eccentric energy level of the city is fantastically inspiring. I can walk down the street, clear my head, and come back with most problems solved. For me, the best time is when I’m alone and don’t expect anything, but then an idea comes.

*

– w h o l e n e s s ,   s e l f – k n o w l e d g e , v i s i o n   &   l o v e – 

It’s a terrible thing to give advice. I’d say that you have to try to be true to yourself and find out who you are by doing the things that give you the most pleasure in life. Try to weave that into your work; don’t separate yourself into different beings. But people starting out who are in their twenties? That’s a rough time. Stick with your vision, if you can, and find people to love you, if you can.

*

Watch Walter Mischel Discuss the Marshmallow Test & Strategies for Delaying Gratification…*

“The successful delaying of gratification is very much about how you represent the object of desire.” – Walter Mischel

Looking for some last minute strategies for self-regulation before sitting down to your Thanksgiving meal? You’re in luck, here’s a great short video from the RSA featuring Walter Mischel discussing his motivation for creating his now famous Marshmallow Test sets of experiments and some of his findings on delayed gratification, willpower and self-control.

source: RSA – What Marshmallows Can Tell Us About Self Control

{ Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage, Blisters & Permethrin } A More Nomadic Iteration of rethinked …*

{ Liszt's Années de Pèlerinage, Blisters & Permethrin } A More Nomadic Iteration of rethinked ...*  |rethinked.org

“My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated (green?) skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.” – Maira Kalman

Kaixo (“hello” in Basque), rethinkers *

We’ve gone silent on the blog rather abruptly these past few weeks and an update is long overdue. If it is any excuse, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of preparations for a long journey and an updated more nomadic version of rethinked * 

A couple weeks ago, as we got together to dream and discuss the next iteration of rethinked * we decided it was time to get hard about living out the * ideals. From its very beginning, rethinked * has been grounded around several core principles–among them: smallness, w[o/a]nder and Δ– which we have aimed to explore and express as both dreams and questions in our work, lives and learning. This year, we decided to really push what it might mean to fully live out these principles. Which brings us to the Basque country, from which I am now writing this post.

I am taking rethinked * on the road and living out, in a very literal way–think rethinked*annex on steroids–many of the things we have been thinking and writing about these past two years (from the fascinating link between action and imagination; the connection between movement and creativitythe human impulse to w[o/a]nder; the function of changing environments in keeping us active thinkers; trusting in the processbeing in the world as a knowmad; traveling lightly and thriving within our individual tensions and contradictionstransformation processesdealing with the fear of change; our innate restlessness and embracing the spiritual aspect of walking). It is time to balance out our intellectual exploration of these ideas with a more emotional understanding of what all these things might mean.

After spending the past two weeks geeking out at REI; saying goodbye to friends in New York; watching YouTube videos on the proper way to apply permethrin to gear; packing my backpack, trying to lift it, stumbling around hunched over, taking stuff out only to put it back in an hour later; downloading four different versions of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage (I bought Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage at JFK, devoured it on my flight over and decided last night, in the midst of a bout of jet lag induced insomnia, that I absolutely must have the full set, in multiple versions, to listen to over the next few months) and giving myself a blister from writing down (hoarding) poems and quotes to take with me–all the while seeping in all sorts of existential questions–I am finally ready. Or as ready as I’m likely to ever be. Tomorrow, I will set out on the Camino Francés from Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port and walk my way across Northern Spain to (hopefully) reach Santiago.

I will not be writing on the blog for the next two months although I will be taking with me a journal and a space pen, which, as its name suggests, allows one to write in every imaginable condition, space included. So the blog won’t be updated daily, but you can look forward to a couple posts from my teammates each week.

Finally, if you’re in Europe and would like to meet up to share ideas, food and moments, get in touch – elsa@rethinked.org –I will have some free time the last two weeks of October and would love to check out the intriguing projects and questions you’re exploring.

get lost & rethink …* 

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