The Whole HOG: March/April 2013

“I think when we really see each other, we want to help each other.”
– Amanda Palmer, musician

In his book Imagine: How Creativity Works Jonah Lehrer examines the intricacies of how the human mind creates, from ‘a ha’ moments of epiphany to the way centralized bathrooms help foster innovation in the business environment. Starting with the neural pathways of the brain, and ranging from cultural and historical moments of genius to the benefits of urban friction in modern cities, Lehrer is a nimble guide down the oft-divergent path of creativity.

ImagineImagine has circulated the headquarters of our small green business, where we know from experience that creativity is fostered by hard work, outsider thinking and social exchange. We found Lehrer’s book to be useful, immensely readable, and even inspirational.  (Yep, we heard about the debacle of the fake Bob Dylan quote. We still recommend the book. )

In a footnote, Lehrer remarks, “Architecture has real cognitive consequence.” We think Thomas Hardwick’s Seed Cathedral is an example of consciousness-shifting architecture worth seeing.

Speaking of, this month we’re substituting a B.U.G. Design feature – our monthly creative sustenance – for a timely Ask Dr. HOG feature. Earthquake-prone California and large steel water tanks don’t mix, especially on the playground. Find out why from architect Sally Dominguez, HOG inventor who moonlights as our resident Dr. HOG.

Sally has recently been named ambassador to the humanitarian nonprofit Engineers Without Borders Australia. If you’re in California the first weekend of June, you can catch her making a case for rainwater harvesting – “Good for the plants, good for the planet,” she says – at the Marin Home and Garden Expo.

The ever-expanding Austin musical festival that is South by Southwest (SXSW) had the web (and us too) all abuzz this March. One musician’s name kept surfacing, in part because of a recent TED talk she gave called “The Art of Asking.” Amanda Palmer and her band, Grand Theft Orchestra, raised an unprecedented amount of money through KickStarter for a new album.

Art of AskingFearless, bold, and a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of a performer, Amanda uses her outsider status – Lehrer makes the case that this is an important perspective for looking at a problem from a new angle – to reframe the music-industry question, “How do you make people pay for your music?”

Her paradigm-shifting answer: “I didn’t make them. I asked them, and through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.”

“Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing,” T.S. Eliot wrote in an introduction to Dante’s Inferno. Lehrer opens Imagine with this quote and proceeds to demonstrate with example after example that the best way of coming up with something from nothing – the definition of creative problem solving – is to make unexpected connections across diverse fields of knowledge.

It is as a connector that Amanda Palmer envisions a musician at her most successful. She says, “For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of their community, connectors and openers, not untouchable stars.” To get a sense of her ability to connect in action, check out how she crowdsourced a SXSW showcase and panel in under 24 hours.

We strive to connect-the-dots in unexpected ways and bring new perspectives to you in The Whole HOG.  The Amsha Africa Foundation’s project to bring rainwater harvesting to rural Kenya makes us think about the value of water differently. Keep reading to find out more.

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