Edward de Bono made his name with hot water and jelly (or Jell-O for our American cousins). He wrote an entire book on how our minds and memories respond to stimuli like jelly with hot water poured on it – the development of patterns and channels that get deeper and are reinforced with each use.
If wacky is good, then wackier must be better. As a model of how our brains work, “simmering alphabet soup” scores well on the wackiness scale, and is also validated from the experience of many.
Imagine for a moment a deep pan of Alphabet Soup, simmering gently on the stove, occasionally checked by a distracted chef who has a ton of other things to do. As the soup simmers, letters of the alphabet fleetingly appear on the surface. Often, they cluster together, hinting at words that mean more than the sum of their letters. But unless our chef happens to be looking at the right moment, they are gone as quickly as they came.
Like the monkeys with typewriters, the potential volume of ideas and information in the alphabet soup is immense. The letters that roll to the surface are only a tiny fraction of what lurks in the hidden, murky depths of the pan. Our distracted chef occasionally notices messages in the soup, as if it is trying to tell him something. Sometimes, if he catches it off-guard, the soup whispers fragments about past and future happenings in the kitchen. But if he stops what he is doing and glares at it, demanding a clear answer, the soup stops simmering and the letters sink out of sight. You could forgive him for thinking that his pan of soup has a shy and contradictory personality. Worse, it seems to see and hear everything, and have its own interests.
Our chef has realised that vigorous stirring, turning the heat up or down, cursing loudly or blaming the soup for mistakes always make things worse, not better. But if he lets it speak to him in its own subtle way, the richness and variety of its messages are an inspiring revelation. All he has to do is keep it simmering happily, feed it with new ingredients so that it is never short of working material, and be prepared to listen.
In fact, our chef has now hired an assistant for the simple but crucial task of casually watching the soup for unexpected messages, before they sink again forever. The soup and the assistant are getting on famously, as the soup never cared much for the chef’s stressed-out on-demand approach. They are developing a level of mutual trust that the chef found difficult to achieve by himself. There is more productive teamwork between the chef, the soup and the assistant than there ever was between just the stressed chef and his soup.
To hire your own assistant to watch your alphabet soup for you, go here.