The Power of Solitude (Part III)
Greg’s victory was accidental. In normal circumstances he would be presented with a protocol to observe, but because nobody knew much about computers or networking, he was given freedom and no clear goal. The same, no supervising strings guided his actions, leaving him at liberty to choose methods, sources of information and time frames. Favourable position let him to uncover the biggest organisational myth, saving the department (and taxpayer) millions. It could not happen if Greg focused on one selected element of the database’s functionality, supplying feedback to one selected person, then announcing amended (fitting into schematic mentality) findings to one selected forum.
Let’s underline that Greg has no in-depth education in the IT, managerial or financial fields. He is not a genius either. All he needed, to determine something new, was working and thinking independently.
Albert was late again. With a dozen or so of files under his arm, he literally burst through the door. He saw what he always saw: the rest of the team was already in the middle of discussion. As usual, he would have to catch up, damn it!
“Albert, Albert, Albert!” the chairman chanted sarcastically. “What’s happened this time?!”
“I am so sorry,” said Albert meekly. “I was preparing that promised presentation on the binomial theorem till early hours. I overslept,” he added.
Albert’s honesty did not soothe the irritated boss. “How come others can do what they are asked to do without coming late for meetings, Albert?!” he shouted. “What’s so special about you?!”
Albert sighed. “I was also thinking about…”
“What?!” the boss’es voice increased amplitude to scream, sending shivers down the spines. “You were thinking?! What an incredible audacity! When you are ‘thinking’, all your colleagues are working hard! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?!
“How can this establishment function with rebels like you?! We have deadlines, strict hours of attendance, protocols to follow, invited guests, targets and stuff. You can’t even dress properly. When are you going to change this ridiculous, old, floppy, dirty, stinking jersey?” the last remark brought ironic grins to the faces of other guys, exemplarily clothed in suites and ties. “With such attitude you will achieve nothing, Mr Einstein!”
“I promise to change,” Albert was trying to pacify the annoyed superior.
The trick failed. “I’ve heard that before! You are a disgrace to this department! I want you to shave, do something about that haystack on your head, buy decent attire and stick to the regulations.”
The boss ended his humiliating tirade by cracking a joke, amusing everybody to tears, “I order you to stop ‘thinking’, Mr Einstein! Too much thinking gives headache!”
Albert listened to those wise recommendations and till the end of his career spent hours daily to pay utmost attention to neat garments, short hair, clean-shaven face, polished shoes. He was never ever late for any meeting and followed strictly departmental guidelines concerning curriculum. After forty years of faithful service, he was awarded with a Swatch.
Greg is sure that Einstein discovered what he discovered in isolation. If Albert’s mind was preoccupied with loyalty to the established hypotheses, laws of everyday routine or fashion trends, he would become an average academic, repeating what had been previously published. He did not evaluate his ideas through some official scholarly panels, which would undeniably bully him back into the orthodox current of convictions.
What would Copernicus determine if he religiously held onto the concept of Sun whooshing around the Earth? He needed to be brave: locked himself in an attic, ran secret measurements and wrote “Dē revolutionibus orbium coelestium” (“On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”), turning everything upside down.
In the era of frenzy communication through social platforms, solitude is not in – one must update personal profile, circulate crumbs of information (links, memes, photos) and synchronise brain wavelengths with the flow of the latest news. In summary, one must neurotically replicate what others are doing to secure trustworthiness (at least communal tolerance). Similarly, workplaces promote “everybody does the same” attitude, simultaneously imposing red tapes or protocols – tactics effectively not only discouraging, but clearly condemning solo performances.
Distractions, combined with exaggerated control, eliminate pure invention, thus reducing opportunity to progress to the next level of civilisation. It is easier to envision extraordinary things by playing with sticks and stones, than by surfing the Internet. Knowledge is very important – sure – but what is the use of tonnes of absorbed data when it is not objectively scrutinised, challenged, actually doubted?
One should never confuse creation with tweaking already created. LEGO is the best toy in the world. There is only one LEGO and all other plastic blocks are nothing else than copies of LEGO. It is the highest time to fabricate something better than LEGO. Staring at LEGO and inspecting how the pieces fit into each other will not propel imagination in the fresh direction – being inspired by the LEGO creator’s mind will.
Everybody so trusts in specialisation that a mesmerising fact is overlooked: we are still running on concepts developed by courageous people who lived millennia ago. No, they were not experts in narrow disciplines – on the contrary, they studied whatever they liked (physics, art, philosophy, religion, mathematics, biology), combined acquired erudition, detached themselves from the main stream propaganda and metamorphosed the reality.
We are stuck with electricity, fossil fuels, antique economic models, three-dimensional space paradigm and so forth – all concocted by those nonprofessional, prehistoric, indeed primitive humans, who dared to nose around more subjects than one and had cheek to operate alone.
By increasing the heap of gadgets in a never ending quest for super connectivity, we focus attention on miniscule components of existence, so when Greg sneezes it is registered by the global population within a millisecond. By micro-specialisation, we miss the vast landscape of life and foster myopic, prejudiced attitudes, diminishing prospects of more substantial evolution. We cherish our little areas of expertise, complicating them further to the maximum, not even knowing whether what we do makes any practical sense.
What Greg finds remedial is distancing himself from that contemporary template of behaviours and assumptions – he then begins to see more, taps on his inner needs, discovers his real interests. It is enough to learn just a tiny bit about something unrelated to his formal career, to open eyes much wider.
Anybody can withdraw – even for a short time – into seclusion, allowing imagination wonder onto unregulated territories. The mind will never conceive anything that is impossible – from the smallest initiatives to the biggest inventions. It is a beneficial exercise to all, so big companies’ or organisations’ bosses should set the goals and methods vaguely, releasing the grip of obsessive control, letting the assigned to the job individual loose – the solutions brought by a freed man might exceed the boldest dreams.
Do not fear solitude, so says Greg. Believe in what you observe, feel or experience – not necessarily in what you are told.