I finally returned to work midweek with an energy that surprised me. During my sick days I had been doing some work, deadlines that couldn’t be relaxed and a few ‘throw ideas around’ kind of meetings. I had felt low in energy but something in my brain was chewing at stuff that circulated in the background.

In the book ‘The Net and the Butterfly’ the authors created one of the most memorable descriptions of the workings of the two different modes of the brain, the Default Network (DN) and the Executive Network (EN). The default network consist of a team of creative types – I would like to hope that my team includes Margaret Sanger, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Florence Nightingale, John Stewart, Amelia Earhart and Leonardo. The energy sucked up by my frontal lobes when my executive function is in charge, dims the lights in the room where my creatives sit, a windowless den deep inside my brain.

When I am asleep or not working on tasks my creative teams is busy, each with their own ideas. Amelia is plotting her next route and thinking about the tradewinds, Leonardo is fixing those hairs of Mona for the umpteenth time, Franklin is looking for sockets to plug in his latest invention, Stewart is watching Fox News for ideas and Jobs is exploring how to get Corning to make indesctructible glass for his new phone.

My executive, when awake but not on task, sometimes makes a visit to the den and finds empty pizza boxes, dirty cups, crumbs on the table, torn napkins with scribbles and pictures that hint at what went on during the night. But most of the time it’s simply and only a mess.  What was missing was a sense of direction for the creatives to work on something together, as a team, and only the EN can provide that.

After I returned to work that direction emerged. Maybe it surfaced when I cleaned up the den. I left instructions on te clean table: when the lights go on, start working on this. I know I can count on each of you to bring your specific talents to the task. I know you can bring attention to currents (AE), detail (LdV), novelty (BF), laser focus (MS), appeal, esthetics (SJ), and absurdity (JS). They did set to work on solving this wicked problem: how can we in the development community help our counterparts who really do want the health system to function at the highest possible levels, to remove all the gunk that keeps it (or them) from doing so.

And so when I arrived back at work I was boiling over with ideas, insights and what if scenarios. I intercepted any person in my cubicle neighborhood who had time to listen to ply my ideas. And as I was talking I refined coarse ideas and even put some in writing. Instead of lamenting how bored I was (I had been before I got sick – a coincidence?) I started calling people, checking out breadcrumbs left by Steve Jobs whose biography I am listening to, and seeing possibilities where I had seen only failures before.

This whole experience reminded me of why being with your nose to the grindstone is not good because you can only see what’s right in front of you. This is why taking a walk in the woods is always a good thing and why we should preserve woods in the first place.

2 Responses to “Defaulting”

  1. 1 Edith Maxwell February 19, 2018 at 5:53 am

    Have shared. Much relevance for writers!

  2. 2 svriesendorp February 26, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    I am honored. Much relevance for anyone as we could all be creative or more creative. Saw you posted in FB. 🙂

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