So much is done in a mad frenzy these days. We are expected to juggle incoming emails (on multiple accounts), instant messages (Skype messages and other concurrent text chat systems), face-to-face interruptions to our train of thought and phone calls that demand immediate attention (desk and mobile), all at once. We’re expected to do that wherever we happen to be and at more or less any hour of the day. You are expected to be right up to the minute with breaking developments on a number of different fronts, all at the same time. With so many balls in the air, is the quality of the decisions we make suffering? Are they as creative and innovative as we could make them? Do we compromise aesthetic considerations for a fast answer?
When I was a lad, I worked in a large electrical engineering design office. The wise old engineers smoked pipes. I had no idea why, until I impertinently asked. The wise old engineer I asked told me that it was all theatre. It gave him the opportunity to measure his words, consider his answers and take his time while thinking about how to solve the problems people would inevitably throw at him. You can’t hurry a man that is stuffing a pipe and trying to light it, or savouring the aroma of the tobacco. He also said that a pipe gave him gravitas. It was a prop.
His advice to me was that when any emergency broke out and you were called upon for a solution, to always take your time in attending the scene. Don’t rush. Be calm. He said that all of the people already at the emergency would try all the obvious things. It was down to you to arrive with a fresh approach to solve the problem, after all the obvious things had been tried. If they succeeded before you arrived, all was well. If not, you were on the spot and you had to have a creative solution. It had better be a good one.
That was mostly good advice (though the old engineers all had horrendous health problems due mainly to pipe smoking). When you are the one in the spotlight and you have to come up with something brilliant, spectacular, surprising, delightful, unexpected, innovative, creative or amazing, you need to take time to think. Give yourself the space and the peace of mind to let your creative processes work their magic. Don’t rush into it and deliver a damp squib.
I wonder why that simple piece of wisdom has been brushed aside in modern times.