An Inspirational Walk

Last week I wrote about one of Dan Pink’s earlier books, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future“, and how I planned to write several blogs based on the exercises that are at the end of each of the chapters.

At the end of the Design chapter, there was a list of recommended design magazines. Those aren’t the kind of magazines that would normally interest me, but I thought I would check a few out.

The one that sounded most appealing was Ambidextrous, a magazine from Stanford University’s renowned d. school. Pink noted that the quirky magazine explored the craft of design and the nuances of design thinking. Alas, the magazine no longer exists (the book was written in 2005), but I did come across some interesting resources while browsing the d. school web site.

One of the exercises that caught my attention was referred to as “The Inspiration Walk“. The walk is described as an immersive audio learning experience designed to help you see things differently. It’s an exercise in observation and synthesis that gets your body and mind moving into unexpected territory. Use it to find inspiration on a challenge that matters to you.

I thought it would be fun, and hopefully beneficial, so I decided to give it a try. I explained to my wife about the walk, and asked if she would like to join me, and she readily agreed.

All that we needed for the walk were our mobile devices so that we could listen to the audio instructions, notebooks to write our thoughts in, and about 15 minutes of our time.

We downloaded the audio file ahead of time so we wouldn’t have to worry about losing our Internet connection while on the walk, and then we were ready to go.

(I’ll just describe the walk from my point of view; my wife was doing her own inspiration walk.)

After a brief intro, my first task was to write down a few challenges I was currently facing. I came up with two – trying to come up with quality ideas for my blog, and how to make my classes more interactive.

After having stopped for that part of the walk, the audio then directed me to start walking again, and to look for something in nature that was close by. I found a tall palm tree, and the audio directed me to get as close to it as possible, which I did. It then told me to start writing down what I observed about my object; in this case I wrote down things like how many aunts I noticed crawling around the trunk of the tree, the multiple colors of the trunk, the moss, the different textures of the tree, the little sprouts at the bottom of the tree, and the width of the tree (writing down that I don’t think I could completely hug the trunk.)

After a few minutes my time was up, and I was now told to walk back several steps from the object and to now observe the tree and its environment from this different perspective. I wrote down observations such as the height of the tree (I estimated it to be 80 feet high), the little flag that was placed in the ground next to the tree, a plaque in front of the tree (I could not see what it said), how straight the tree was, how the tree was one of many in front of the building, the mound of dirt that encircled the tree, the grass that surrounded those mounds, and how there were not as many “splotches” on the trunk at a higher elevation.

After a few minutes of this, the audio then told me to find a place to sit and connect my observations to one of the challenges I had listed at the beginning. The narrators noted that the first perspective was a zoomed in perspective while the second one was a zoomed out perspective.

I picked the challenge of coming up with useful ideas for a blog posts, and it took a few moments to think about how observing a tree was going to give me any ideas, but after a little brainstorming I came up with the following:

  • First, I realized that one object, the tree, yielded multiple observations. This led me to think that perhaps there was no reason to write just once about some of the topics I’ve written about before. Perhaps one good blog idea could lead to multiple blog posts. That will take some of the pressure off of trying to come up with a unique idea each day.
  • Second, I realized that one object could be looked at in a lot of detail, down to the very basics. This gave me the idea that perhaps occasionally I could go into more depth, more detail, on some of the topics I write about. This would likely involve some research, making such a post more time consuming. However, I thought that perhaps I could combine this with my first insight, and have some blog ideas that have multiple parts, each part would be a separate blog post.

After having those two insights, it was soon time to wrap things up, and the audio “hosts” bid me good bye.

All in all, the walk was close to 15 minutes, so it certainly is not too much a time commitment.

Of course, I can’t tell yet if it was a useful exercise, but if it helps me get a few blog posts, then it was certainly worth the effort.

And if nothing else comes of the walk, at least it got me this blog post…

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