Chapter Six: Exaptation of Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From looks at how, both biologically and in human invention, new ideas are often modified, tinkered old ideas. In evolutionary terms, birds’ feathers are an exaptation of what initially served to keep the animal warm. In human invention terms, many new ideas are modified from a previous and well-known invention (e.g. Guttenberg’s printing press from a wine press, Babbage’s computer punch cards from Jacquard’s weaving punch cards).
Many of the inventors in Johnson’s examples had the commonality of areas of interest outside of their chosen profession that complemented and expanded their thinking. I’ve always felt a twinge of guilt at having interests outside of education, with my inner voice sometimes chiding, “if you were really serious about education, you wouldn’t spend so much time decorating, learning new cooking techniques, collecting American silver, golfing….”
I dismissed that voice by justifying that people need “off” time for good mental health, but I had not considered the perspective of needing these hobbies to inform my chosen profession. I’m still struggling with this idea.
Questions for Reflection:
- Can you think of a time when one of your interests outside of education informed or inspired your work in education?
- In the workplace, how can we make each other aware of these outside interests to encourage creative discussions and collaboration?