Atoms vs. Bits - Making Matters

Students working on projects in the  Brown Design Workshop

Students working on projects in the Brown Design Workshop

We live in a world infatuated with bits (tech).  We value, encourage, praise bit-making over atom-making.  Creating with atoms doesn’t have the cache or import it once did, and we’ve lost something precious by doing so.  Our hands* were not made (just) for typing, they were made to be sources of input to our brains to learn about our world – and learn by creating.

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Making, physically making, with atoms, not bits (or at least not just bits), is powerful!  Numerous studies have shown the power of physically making for muscle memory, learning new cognitive skills, and much more.  Making helps us develop empathy, helps us learn to iterate and prototype, to try stuff

Making with atoms usually involves almost all, if not all of our 5 senses – we use sight, touch/texture, hearing, smell and even taste, think cooking!  If you ever created with wood, do you remember the constant touch & texture of sanding an edge? Eyeing a joint? The amazing smell of cut wood (ahhh!)**? the sound of a planer or saw so you knew it was working perfectly? Making builds a sense of self-confidence and self-sufficiency, of knowing you can be ok, you can rely on yourself if need be.  And, making is a source of peace, calmness, harmony in our very hectic anxious lives.

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Making is how we learn about our world, both in reality and as a metaphor.  For instance, if you build a drawer by just nailing the sides together, does it have the same stability, endurance and resilience as a dovetailed drawer? By building both types of drawers, what could we learn, extrapolate about systems-level thinking vs. discrete parts? Doesn’t this resemble our healthcare, education and other failing systems - as a bunch of parts nailed together instead of dovetailed? By making, we can see why systems matter and how to design them.

As you go through the rest of this month, what can you make – out of Legos, Play-Doh (yes, it’s for adults too), food, wood, glass, paper and pen? It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be profound, it doesn’t need to be auctioned off by Sotheby’s.  Just make something – for yourself or with someone.  With someone is even better.  Because, remember – we’re made of atoms, not bits.

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*The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture

**If anyone ever wonders why I love doing my office hours in the Brown Design Workshop, just come in and smell the wood!

It Isn't Home Runs! More At Bats = More RBIs

Hank Aaron ~ All time MLB RBI Hitter (2,297) Picture Credit USBData

Hank Aaron ~ All time MLB RBI Hitter (2,297) Picture Credit USBData

Opening day is March 28th. The media, fans, and managers will be focused on key stats like on-base and slugging percentages, defensive runs saved, walks/hits per inning pitched and ERA … and of course Grand Slams and Home-Runs! Guess what, companies love those big sexy stats too - especially for innovation.

I like RBIs - Runs Batted In. It’s not sexy but it’s a great leading indicator of success (or not). The more times you’re at bat, the more times you’ll hit the ball, the more times a runner will get to base and the more times a runner will get home. Innovation is a numbers game - the more you try, the more you’ll fail AND the more you’ll succeed!

The more at bats, the more you get to home!

So, just remember, the more times you’re up at bat, the more times you try, the greater the chances you’ll get to home base.

DisrupTV!!!!

Had such a blast doing my 2nd DisrupTV* episode with my wonderful friend, Vala Afshar, and Alan Lepofsky (sitting in for Ray Wang).  Talked about mentoring, innovation, thinking & doing!

See the full episode with Jim Cathcart & Bruce Kasanoff here.

Please follow DisrupTV - it's the best grad school for all things relevant to our world today!!! Subscribe to the podcast so you can listen when you can't watch!

*1st DisrupTV here.