(Thoughts while on the PIA summit in Kumasi, Ghana https://impact-alliance.mit.edu/activities/co-design-summits)
“This program was born out of my frustration with academia” says Amy Smith the founder of D-lab and senior lecturer at MIT.
It is surely a frustration to have great people with great knowledge, remarkable gatherings of genius minds, without practical application of their insights or ideas in relevant situations. This is a common situation that many, I dare to say, in higher education settings, can relate to.
“We want to create more prototypes instead of more papers”. Amy continues and I’m hooked. Yes, the D-lab program at MIT promotes this “urgency of doing” that Leonardo Da Vinci so famously spoke of and lived.
❤ “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do”. Leonardo Da Vinci. ❤
As members of the Practical Impact Alliance, organizations participate in unique activities designed to foster practical innovation, collaborative action, and shared learning. Basically…this network wants to enable us “to do”. “Being willing is not enough” Leo says.
PIA’s activities are conceived to be hands-on and action-focused to discover – or build – solutions to real-world challenges both inside and outside their organizations. These activities and methods are a remedy to the concept I often use to refer to this complex phenomenon (or disease): “intellectual obesity”.
This is how I personally understand the energy cycle in human beings that occur when you learn information but don’t use it properly. You get a disease that is similar to physical obesity. It limits or prevents you to move.
*** I understand that there are different causes for obesity but I am talking specifically about the excess of input (food equated to information) and lack of efficient output, and even though eating is also information processing, we will differentiate it just because eating is more visible than learning***
Ok so, How could intellectual obesity look like?…
Well, perhaps intellectual obesity looks like earning many degrees and having great ideas and vision, without looking for relevant ways for applying these ideas in the present or where and when it is most needed. It could be someone who knows a lot but doesn’t bother sharing its perspectives and experiences with others. Our basic aim should be optimum energy efficiency in these biological systems, right? Ideas are born to inspire you to build your reality not necessarily to give you a better reputation… But it is only our choice to be a vessel of the energy (food or information) we consume, or merely a container for storing it. (But is it really our choice? what’s the role of free-will and/or addiction in all of this?…That’s another post May! 😡 )
How do we link our day to day activities to the vast knowledge that we have? How can we align our learnings to the challenges we face? it is not an easy task because life, being the epic search for knowledge that it is, will naturally feast on the great information available in this day and age. However we must look for this interaction, the healthy cycle between our knowledge and our actions.
Nowadays, in this world we share, information and technology grow in such an exponential rate that starves the people at the end distribution. We have the data but when we internalize or digest this information it makes us do nothing. What’s up with that?! …it should make us do something right?!. It should make us move like kids after lunch running outside to climb a tree, just because they naturally feel they need to. Unless their diet is inducing fatigue, of course, which is something to take care of. A healthy mammal would react moving with the energy they put inside their bodies, and until transcendence is possible, we are still contained in these mammal bodies. 😛 We need to pay closer attention to this.
This is why I’m impressed with this summit. The degree of awareness of reality it had. Of the energy cycle our ideas usually have. How we tend to interact in teams.
It is all energy.
For example, we got together in groups with a clear objective. The activities were fast enough to notice my bad attitudes emerge and yet insightful enough to say sorry and move ahead. There was no time to lose. We had larger immediate objectives. We were investigating problems and adapting to them in order to solve them. Now. We could not afford to be anywhere else but in the present. We were in uncomfortable situations with unknown people that had similar missions so we could rely in that, in those intentions.
D-lab embraces the concept of engineering primarily as a service to people and that is really interesting. IDDS (International Development Design Summits) develop technologists as well as technologies because people in underprivileged situations are the experts in their contexts and are capable of developing innovation. They can be efficient with their knowledge and create solutions to problems they see. Everyone can, we are born to.
This pilot Summit was a gathering of representatives from NGOs, Corporations, social enterprises in Ghana and local community experts with similar missions. They were critical thinkers that chose to let go of some of the privileges and step out of their own comfort zones for the sake of social justice. They didn’t need to, they chose to and that is powerful.
I was blown away by the confidence, humility and passion that these individuals showed, and the incredibly attractive stories and choices they have made in their lives. I could listen to them for hours and work with them to. Because I keep finding out that the best way to fight intellectual obesity is practising what you know. Feeling the urgency of your energy now demanding you to act on what you already know. That tells you that you are more than ready to do something Today and if it is with similar minded people, the better.