Discomfort, in small doses, is your friend. Mine involved rubber and bells. (Now you’re worried). It started with a message colliding with a coffee cup.
The message read, “Am in a lecture about Pavlov. It’s not very believable. Ah, that’s the lunch bell – must go”.
The coffee cup was made of rubber. It elegantly undermined any Pavlovian response to an espresso by gently collapsing between finger and thumb. And so a change of café – to a self consciously groovy café with lovely touches, like rubber cups and saucy saucers – started something.
Will new tools reinvigorate a familiar task? Can discomfort pay dividends?
That café, that day, seems to be showing that doing something with a different set of muscles, and kit, instantly energises what we do and create. It seems to change the old thinking grooves. The thing about those old grooves (ruts?) is that we may not even know how deeply we are in them, how ingrained and automatic are our expectations and behaviour patterns. It can feel so good to be hauled out of them.
I was in a cinema where the audience mood was just beginning to turn ugly. The start of the film was now very overdue. The mood/ behaviour curve in this sort of situation is predictable, no? (Just to be clear: this was SW19, so for ‘turn ugly’ read perhaps ‘cough’). A shadowy female figure from the young and friendly staff loitered at the door to speak to the restive audience. She hypnotised that antsy lot as if by magic. The completely unexpected, gently seductive, French voice was so effective that whimpers of pleasure could be heard from the front row. Charm to disarm.
At the other end of the severity and danger spectrum: the Ukraine. Could different kit, different muscles help leaders defuse that situation? If Putin and Kerry and Hague found themselves sitting at a café table where a cup demanded two hands and gentleness, or the saucer squeaked if handled too roughly, might a different thinking groove appear? That situation is becoming so serious. War seems so possible and real. But how tempting to imagine ways to defuse things – soldiers armed with ukuleles or cut flowers, or those leaders offering each other cake.
Or use a different way to communicate? A colleague sent a link to another way to make the familiar seem new, a clever new app that will help turn words into short video messages – http://www.wordeo.com . Different kit, different thinking, different outcome.
Had Putin and Kerry come into the café at that moment they might have overheard something so simple and so helpful.
I had nearly mastered the coffee cup (other hand, gentle grip). But at another table, a groove had been moved as the group laughed at a strangely bendy knife.
Those scones were going to be tricky to share.
“Let’s see if there’s another way of going about this”
they said to each other.