There was a great article in the paper this morning about an ISU professor who teaches a seminar on creativity and mischief. He talks about how trouble-makers and mischief-mongers are generally the ones who pave the way for the next big wave of solutions and break-throughs. I couldn't agree more.
In office politics, we talk a lot about people who play mind games... and usually it's under a negative context. I have to admit, I sort of view the world as my own little mental plaything, and I do like to yank a few chains from time to time... not really out of malice, but more out of mischief. I especially like to tackle people who are either really mean-spirited, too serious, or overly dogmatic. Then it's just fun to bat around my prey before I devour it.
Anyway, back to the article. The professor in question, Mitchell Squire, teaches architecture at Iowa State. The article quotes him as saying,
"People want the safety of a certain way... But given the swift changes of our world, you can't desire that stability. The minute you find a solution, a new one will be required... The individual who's always playing games and is never serious may also be the person who can ultimately get us out of the big fix."
To those who might criticize my overly playful nature, I offer an ornery tongue-sticking-out and a solid, "So There!"
The article goes on to make a great point about one of the finer points of mischief-making:
"Squire is quick to point out that he doesn't encourage his students to cheat or lie, but he emphasizes the lessons from those who do - a tough concept for students conditioned to follow the rules."
We have a lot of rule followers out there. And in our economy, the frightened little cubicle-dwellers are just becoming more fearful of standing out in any way, lest the axe of downsizing fall on the one getting the attention. I've learned over the years some of the nuances of when to ask permission and when to elevate an issue, versus when to just grab the ball, run the length of the field, and hope for the touchdown before there's a flag on the play. It's a judgment call, and sometimes I get my hand slapped (ask my wife how often we have to have the "why didn't you just tell me about it beforehand?" speech) and other times I'm lauded for my creative leadership.
Mitchell Squire is the kind of educator and thought leader we need in these trying times. I may have found a new hero to add to my list.