We sat at the long community table in the back
of PieLab—the VISTA volunteers, the town teens (all black males) and
me. To asked us each to take a raw egg from a carton he passed around
(clever use of available materials I thought, having just had the
quiche). We had to figure out how to get the yoke out of our shell
leaving the smallest, fewest holes possible, To instructed. He flipped
over the egg timer. To later told me, “The simplicity of the task
established the common denominator we needed. We all struggled through
it together. If they can think of something small and do it, that could
start to change their lives.” I connected with the boy sitting next to
me. We had conversation. The teen next to me was a large black male. He
told me of the curfew for blacks in Greensboro, about the two high
schools in town (one black, one white) and the existence of mutual
racism. I asked him if there were more whites against blacks or vice
versa. He said it was about equal. I asked about the ages of people he
felt harbored this prejudice. He said they were mostly older. This
seemed positive. The old die off. We lined up our eggs and To noted the
sizes of the holes. One of the teens had made a straw to pull out the
yoke. No one else thought of that. Clever. But a VISTA volunteer was
determined to prevail. She sucked the yoke out with her mouth. She won.
To said, “What they have going on here is awesome. This design
work inspires us but I wonder, is it actually moving the needle for
Greensboro? The people are stuck. They need jobs. They need a chance to
In the East, the self, or individual identity,
is subsumed by the family; social responsibility trumps ego. This
In the West, the individual is
ego-driven not socially-driven. It’s how we’re raised. This affects
everything. Yet fulfilling the social role is a very important way for
the individual to become whole, to heal, no matter where you are from.
And caring as much about others as you do about yourself is the basis
of all ethics. Of doing good. Yet the individual is the innovator, the
creator, not the family. And so, in many ways, the future of the world
depends, in Think Wrong parlance, on the “us” of the East mashing up
with the “me” of the West. To helped bring that balance to M.BUILDING BIKE LAB
an avid biker, says thoughts gravitate naturally to biking at Project
M. “There were few people at M who were not into biking it seemed this
last year. We discussed how the simplified bike, the fixed-gear
movement and that subculture, is evolving. This movement is cool and
hip and inexpensive—very D.I.Y,” Bielenberg observes. “We prototyped a
bike lab, where we could recycle old bikes, to get more people in
Greensboro onto bikes. And we started Nada Bike7
simple bike, just a frame, no speeds, fixed gears. We set up a Web site
for Nada. When you’d join, you’d get a simple steel frame in the mail.
But we felt badly about ordering metal frames from Asia, it seemed so
wasteful. Then we found out about the Bamboo Bike Studio in Brooklyn,
New York, and we mashed bamboo into Nada.” Bielenberg says, “Marty
Odlin, co-founder of the studio, came down and showed us how to harvest
bamboo for bike frames.”
You need wheels to get anywhere in
Greensboro, and its easy to see how they would benefit from both
growing bamboo (so many products could spin off from this) and
developing a biking culture. Plus this nurtures commerce in Greensboro.
And it’s fun. Win. Win. Win. Win.MAKING MAVLAB
and his partners at C2 just started MavLab (i.e., maverick thinkers)
for their clients in Half Moon Bay. It brings together
interdisciplinary teams of creative individuals who work to solve big
challenges. Design becomes part of the solution using the same
intuitive approach as Project M.
Left: C2/MavLab “plastic” building near the Mavericks surf spot in Half Moon Bay, California. Right: Interior of C2/MavLab open-plan studio space featuring individually customized cubes.
Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett head the diversified company Berkshire Hathaway,8
which has arguably the most successful stock of all time trading at
well over $100,000 a share. Munger considers our human failings in a
talk he gave, “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment.” We want to confirm
what we believe; we gravitate to evidence that supports our views. We
work at thinking as little as possible. When we do think, we
tend to conform our perceptions to fit with our group’s. MavLab and
Project M are mental gymnasiums that loosen up our tendency to default
to “foolish consistency.”
MASHING HELTER AND SKELTER
Skelter are two words with no meaning but, when put together, somehow
create meaning for us. Did you think this article was about the Manson
murders? Or a Beatles song? Or an insincere term for a pawnshop as
seventeenth-century satirist Jonathan Swift intended? Or did it mean
scattered and chaotic—my choice? This title was random. The phrase just
came into my head. We fear randomness. But if everything were
controlled, everything would have a fixed meaning (i.e., there are no
coincidences, destiny, karma, everything has a purpose). Without
randomness, we are stuck with predictability, routine, formula. We are
just stuck. But if we expect the unexpected, think wrong every once in
a while, we may be absolutely right. And we may just get unstuck. CA
1. Homage to René Magritte’s contradictory painting of a pipe, Ceci n'est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe).
2. A bubble is inflated speculation, destined to burst.
3. To be part of Project M, check out projectmlab.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Potemkin Village was a portable façade supposedly constructed to give
Catherine the Great the illusion of prosperity as she traveled across
5. Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an architecture of decency, Princeton Architectural Press.
6. All in the mind, Challenging Stereotypes, ABC National Radio podcast.