It’s interesting how the computer industry has so effectively adopted many of our everyday words. There’s talk of viruses, worms, defaults, firewalls, domains, portals, peripherals, and the list goes on and on. All perfectly good words, both inside the computer world and out.
But there’s one I really like – RESTART. That’s one most all of us know. If things start going badly with your computer, it’s usually a good idea to restart, that is, get a fresh start.
The same is true with our brains. Sometimes, we just need to back away from a situation. a challenge, or a problem and restart. Reload all the software and hope that we get a new perspective.
One of my very favorite instances of a RESTART is taken from the book, Made To Stick, authored by brothers Dan & Chip Heath.
They tell the story of a high school journalism class taken by Nora Ephron, screenwriter for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle.
This was the first journalism class for these students and they eagerly listened to the teacher as he explained their assignment. He would give them all the facts and they were to write the lead for a newspaper story.
He gave them the name of a school, its location, and the principal’s name. He told them that the principal had announced that the entire faculty would be traveling to a nearby city next Thursday for an all-day conference on new teaching methods. He gave them a list of the distinguished presenters.
There’s the assignment. Now, how would you handle?
Probably, just as all these students did. They quickly went to work on their manual typewriters (Anybody remember them?) to rearrange the order of the facts, play with the sentence structure, and make sure they included the who, what, where, when, and why.
In a few minutes, the journalism teacher collected the papers and began to read over them at the front of the class. Soon, he put them aside, paused for a moment, and then said, the lead for this story is:
There will be no school
Did you see that coming? And isn’t he exactly right? Nora Ephron described her reaction. “It was a breathtaking moment.”
We often get so bogged down with the facts, we lose sight of the big picture – what really matters.
These journalism students never stepped back far enough to see the most important part of the story for their readers. The BIG NEWS was NO SCHOOL. Nobody particularly cared that the teachers were going for some training.
I once read about an experiment where two groups of students were given some materials and an assignment. The first group was given a candle, a box of thumbtacks, and a pack of matches. Their assignment was to attach the candle to the back of a door, then light the candle. After a frustrating fifteen minutes, they could not figure out a way to accomplish this and gave up.
The second group was given the same materials and the same assignment, but with one difference: the thumbtacks and the box were given to them separately. And they quickly tacked the candle to the bottom of the open box, tacked the box to the door, and lit the candle.
The big difference was in the way the two groups perceived the function of the box. The first group saw the box only as a container for the thumbtacks, whereas the second group recognized the box as a material they could use in completing their assignment.
Sometimes, you just gotta step back and hit RESTART.