At Tinkering School, decoration of unfinished projects incubates innovative solutions.

The Tinkering School Summer Camp is in session at Elkus Ranch in Half Moon Bay, California. Computer scientist/writer/sculptor Gever Tulley started Tinkering School and hosts two sessions a summer with his wife, Julie Spiegler, and Robyn Orr.


 In his second TED talk filmed in February, 2009, Gever told the TED audience…

We start from doodles and sketches. And sometimes we make real plans. And sometimes we just start building. Building is at the heart of the experiences. Hands on, deeply immersed and fully committed to the problem at hand. Robin and I, acting as collaborators, keep the landscape of the projects tilted towards completion. Success is in the doing. And failures are celebrated and analyzed. Problems become puzzles and obstacles disappear. 

When faced with particularly difficult setbacks or complexities, a really interesting behavior emerges: decoration. Decoration of the unfinished project is a kind of conceptual incubation. From these interludes come deep insights and amazing new approaches to solving the problems that had them frustrated just moments before.

I was struck by Gever’s observation about decoration as conceptual incubation and innovative solutions flowing out of such interludes.

You can follow the 2010 Tinkerers’ adventures on the Tinkering School blog. Be sure to follow diary links for extended posts and videos of camp. And TED posted a great web comic version of the talk here.


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