Master of the Obvious? Why, Yes!

MOO stands for Master Of The Obvious.

 

My husband John is an accomplished engineer with several patents to his name. From the first days of our relationship, we’ve enjoyed cooking together and exploring flavorful dishes from different lands. One night, as I sipped wine, I watched him clean up after a delicious and very sticky dish involving butternut squash, brown sugar and a hollow core cookie sheet. As he rummaged through cabinets looking for just the right object of just the right weight to hold the cookie sheet under the soapy water, a question popped into my mind, “Why don’t you just turn the cookie sheet over and let it float on the suds?” And, thus the MOO was born.

MOO stands for Master Of The Obvious. We use it when one of us overlooks a simple solution in favor of a more complex one. When my husband says “MOO” to me I smile in exasperated delight, knowing I will be both gratified and slightly annoyed at the simple and elegant solution that follows.

Because we find our MOOs funny, we’ve shared them with friends, and discovered that almost everyone we talked with had their own version of a MOO. Over time, we’ve noticed that our MOOs tend to come as a flash of insight that connect bits of knowledge in a new way, as when I “sewed” a tarp to a safety line on our sailboat to create a tent, or when John fixed a drainage issue by repositioning blocks on the driveway.

I love the challenge of getting people to recognize the ingenuity of the MOO in themselves and in others. Looking for ways to get people in the MOO mindset I tested a question at a recent gathering of The Society of Ingenious Women. I opened the meeting by holding up a number two pencil and asking everyone to write as many questions about the pencil as they could in two minutes.

The ten women present wrote an astonishing number of questions. Some, like “How much does the pencil weigh?” were mentioned by multiple women. Others like “Where did the tree the pencil was made from grow?” were surprising to others. A lively and thought-provoking discussion followed, that showed how even the most simple of objects can elicit a variety of perspectives.

One attendee summed up the conversation like this: “What I really loved is the incredible diversity of thought that came out of such a simple thing. I felt such a sense of wonder and gratitude at all the amazing and beautiful ways our minds and hearts work and make different connections from one starting point. Super COOL!”

Another said, “We all see things so differently, yet look for the common ground or element that connects you to others. Listen, truly listen. That pencil is going to have me thinking all weekend, literally.”

I was gratified that my simple experiment provoked such deep insight and thoughtful connection.

The point is this. When this pandemic is over, we are going to emerge into a world that is different, there will be chaos and uncertainty. There already is finger pointing, and foot stamping, and a collective wail from all of us who want to return to the way things were. As humanity has always done in the past, we will rise up and begin to find solutions to move us forward. Rather than trying to craft complex solutions to lay over the complex problems, we need to take a collective breath and remember what we can learn from the MOOs and a simple pencil about the power of human ingenuity to create the simplest possible solutions to move us forward.

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