Ingenuity - Unintended Consequences

Mr. Hyam - my Grade 6 teacher - was not a fan of Rube Goldberg machines. Hours spent at home with odd bits and pieces from the junk drawer, various found treasures, a sloped board about the size of a school desk and a small ball bearing resulted in marvellous "contraptions".  Carefully dismantling and transporting it all to school, a buddy and I would set them up on my desk. Fellow students would gather around amazed as the bearing made its way down the desk making various things happen and following the torturous route we had created. A cross between an old game "Mousetrap" and pinball machines several cold recesses were passed with great glee.

But then came the recess where we didn't quite get finished building our current contraption so we tried to quietly finish it in class when we were supposed to be copying notes from the board. And we discovered that it wasn't the "proper use" of our time. When the weather warmed up the next day, as a consequence of our disrupting the class we were denied the pleasure of going outside. We were each assigned a chapter from our Social Studies texts. My chapter to copy was on Peru. It resulted in a lifelong love of Latin America and when I had a chance to travel to Peru in the mid eighties to provide consulting. The only real thing on my current bucket list is to go to Machu Pichu in the high Andes -  a trip that I fell in love with after my initial visit.

While Mr Hyam's intended consequence wasn't to create the lifelong love of things Spanish in me, it happened. But I have often wondered about small actions that create unintended consequences far into the future.

Until I watched a TED talk by Adam Sadowsky on the making of "OK Go - This too shall pass" a viral YouTube video, I thought that was the only consequence. But watching this video and listening to the lessons learned made me realize that there was another unintended consequence. A lifelong passion for tinkering. Far from dissuading me from fiddling from with Rube Goldberg type machinery - I spent more time. And it extended to other areas. Building things - a toboggan for moving hay bales in deep snow. Fixing things - new clutch in the '56 Chevy truck when I was 16. And the tinkering that I did stood me in good stead when I was a hundred miles from the nearest mechanic deep in the Panamanian jungle. But now it has given me a vocation.

Many times when people learn I have an advanced degree in business and not in computer science they wonder how I got into web design. Tinkering is part of the answer. I'm fascinated by the putting together of pieces and making things happen. As a Drupal implementer I take all sorts of modules, themes and "glue code" and put them together to create a unique website that meets the needs of the person or business that I am working with.

Thoughts Categories: