March 22, 2005
Excerpts: A Whole New Mind: Symphony Portfolio
Hit the Newsstand.
One of my favorite exercises in conceptual blending is the "newsstand roundup". If you're stymied on how to solve a problem, or just want to freshen up your thinking, visit the largest newsstand you can find. Spend twenty minutes browsing--and select ten publications that you've never read and would likely never buy. That's the key: Buy magazines you never noticed before. Then take some time to look through them. You don't have to read every page of every magazine. But get a sense of what the magazine is about and what its readers have on their minds. Then look for connections to your own work and life. For instance, when I did this exercise, I figured out a better way to craft my business cards thanks to something I saw in Cake Decorating--and came up with a new idea for a newsletter because of an article in Hair For You. Warning: your spouse might give you uncomfortable looks when you come home toting Trailer Life, Teen Cosmo, and Divorce Magazine.
Read These Books.
Here are five books to help hone your powers of Symphony:
Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture by William Benzon--An excellent exploration of how the brain processes music, in particular how music draws on all parts of the brain in a whole-minded , symphonic fashion.
Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames--Created by the well-known husband and wife team, this flip book contains seventy-six pages, each with one image, each of which is seen ten times closer than its predecessor. Start at the beginning of the book with an image of the earth seen from ten million light years away. Then flip through the pages with your thumb, and zero in on a man at a picnic on Chicago's lakefront--and descend into the man's skin, one of the skin's cells, the skin's DNA, all the way to a single proton.
Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson--This is a short, accessible work is the best book available about metaphor as a thought process.
Not Waste A Project (A project by Laboratorio De Creacion Maldeojo)--A TV aerial made out of discarded metal cafeteria trays. Toy cars fashioned from spent plastic shampoo, ink, and glue containers. Those are just two of the images in this remarkable collections of photographs of ingeniously repurposed items from the streets of Cuba. A stunning display of combinatorial thinking.
How To See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment by George Nelson--First published in the mid-seventies, and reissued in 2003, this book is an amazing tutorial in looking critically at the world around us, making connections between what we see, and conceived of human creations in a broader context.