Although I awoke this morning to several inches of fresh snow on the ground, spring can be seen peeking around the corner if you know where to look. It is a messy time of year. Our landscape is stuck between seasons with a puzzling mix… remnants from last month and previews of next month. Fading snow banks are creating an eerie worm hunting ground for the robins. Early morning birdsong can be heard while you scrape away the thick frost from your car windows.
Last night during a short cut through a playground, the path traversed a large sloppy pool of early spring gumbo. My 12 year old daughter proclaimed “whoa… that is some awesome mud”.
(friend or foe?)
It instantly struck me how different our perspectives can be. My reaction was to avoid it at all costs for fear that it would clog our shoe treads and track into the car and house. Hers was one of wonder and potential. Perhaps visions of culinary creations, mud pies and terra muffins. Hours of entertainment in the pure primeval goo. I was thrilled at witnessing her innocent guttural reaction. But it took me a several seconds to recognize it.
Last week while attending a meeting in Texas, the keynote speaker Tye Maner spoke of many intriguing things. One key insight was the lost art of listening. He used several analogies to make the point that listening to understand is different than listening just to hear. As a designers or individuals involved in creating solutions that improve people’s lives, this is a crucial point and a crucial difference.
My daughter’s reaction to the mud was not at all what I would have expected. Had I not been listening to understand, I would have missed the rapid romping through the possibilities on her imaginary journey and the simple joy she found in it. It is a simple thing and certainly not a major crime had I failed, but a beach cannot be formed with one grain of sand. Like our experiences in life, it takes thousands.
My opinion of the mud pit changed from one of avoidance to one of admiration… not that we stopped what we were doing and dove in, but my point is this. People react to things differently. Tye’s presentation came to mind. We need to always strive to understand through listening, through seeing and through pushing our own biases aside. In doing so we will be better designers, organizers, spouses, sand castle architects and perhaps mud chefs.