Tuesday, October 13, 2009

out of the box

The rough life of the out-of-the-box thinker. People have been persecuted, ridiculed, imprisoned and burned to the stake for taking a view other than popular opinion. Take Galileo for example. He spent his last years under house arrest because he believed the sun was the centre of the solar system. His story has a happy ending though. 342 years after his death, the pope pardoned him for his dangerous opinions. How touching.

Then there was this guy. Where would we be without him?

Although I'm not much of an innovator myself, out-of-the-box thinkers intrigue me, and the least I can do is cheer them on. The lucky ones get laughed at while they discover continents and invent things that society eventually adopts, like wheels and airplanes. The unlucky ones get laughed at then forgotten. Some of them still entertain us, like Rube Goldberg.

Some innovators are artistic activists like Liu Bolin. Click here to see more of his stuff. If I had half that talent . . .

Others hypothesize that if they can make you laugh you’ll remember their point better. Like these photographers in Montreal.

The fire service traditionally has a tough time with innovation and change. It could have to do with the word traditionally, but I think it’s deeper than that. Allow me to put on my philosopher cap for a moment.

Our job is predictably unpredictable. Statistics tell us that houses will catch fire, cars will crash, and cats will get stuck in trees (we don't do cats) . . . and that people will call us to fix their problems . . . and that we won't ever know for sure when the call will come. Experience helps us plan, but unpredictable means . . . , well, you can't predict it. Perhaps firefighters cling tenaciously to form and ritual in order to bring some normalcy to their careers.

Incidentally, I don’t ever recall a cat getting stuck in a tree in Upsala. I think they know we’d just leave them up there.

Click here to read my view on firefighter superstions and rituals. Here is the cartoon I drew to make you laugh and remember the point of that column.

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