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Tinkering is a minor risk taking activity without any great consequence; it is not goal directed nor are there defined outcomes. There are no key performance indicators for tinkering. Thus, tinkering is suspended from the pressures of defined goals and time limits. It’s about a question mark, not a product or a saleable process. Tinkering involves a flow state, an intense focus on a small closed world. Tinkering and play are closely interlinked; a certain sense of wonder propels the curiosity at the heart of every compulsive tinkerer. Tinkering allows failure, which is essential for any process of evolution. – Mark Thompson – Institute of Backyard Studies

little delicate workFast Company ran an interesting piece by Kevin Lee recently titled “How Creative Hobbies Make Us Better at Basically Everything.”  Most people will agree that it’s nice to have hobbies, but making us better “at basically everything”?

Lee cites Google’s “20% rule” that famously allows employees 20% of their work time to pursue their own interests (and may or may not have been redesigned a bit) in the interest of boosting overall corporate creativity and employee satisfaction. More compelling is the UK study Lee references, that examined the relationships between non-work creative activity and work performance.

Results showed “that those who had a creative hobby were more likely to feel a sense of relaxation outside work and to feel greater control and a sense of mastery. At work, meanwhile, those with a creative hobby were more likely to help others and to be more creative in the performance of their job.”

This isn’t rocket science of course, although it certainly could be.  Anything that exercises creativity and artistic expression limbers up the heart and soul, as well as the mind. Whether it’s tinkering for something like Red Bull Creation, or cobbling things together for Instructables projects, to solve real problems or create works of art or just fiddling for fun, that state of “flow” that brings life and being into clear, contented focus.

the joy of flow

In the TED Talk, Flow, the secret to happiness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of  psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University, observes that “regardless of the culture, regardless of education or whatever, there are these seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. And once the conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.”

Imagine a nation of people in “flow” supported in creative endeavors at all levels of life, at work and at home, a capable nation of tinkerers,  imbued with that “certain sense of wonder” that propels the curiosity driven, capable and meaningful life.

Not a bad world to imagine!