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the case for tinkering on purpose

No one had the idea to invent the chocolate chip cookie.

In 1930 while preparing a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies, Ruth Wakefield substituted the recipe’s ever-dependable baker’s chocolate that she was missing with chopped bits from a block of Nestle chocolate.

Ruth didn’t try this before; she expected the chocolate chips to evenly disperse throughout the cookie. Instead, the chips retained their form, the cookies were well-received, and so the chocolate-chip cookie that the world would come to revel in was introduced.

The chocolate chip cookie, penicillin, slinkies and a wide array of other happy accidents didn’t start with the insight in mind — in most cases they were the result of someone adjusting their routine by necessity or happenstance.

The moral of the story isn’t to do away with intention and put all faith into serendipity, but there is something to be said about embracing the spirit of tinkering as a way of discovering better and helpful things worth loving and embracing.

The inverse of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity applies: it’s decidedly sane when we do things differently, over and over again, and expect different results.

Sometimes you will have the end in mind, other times you won’t. Either way, if you need to know or simply wonder what new possibilities are available for the world, the only way is to play with new means or reconfigure current ones.

No need to wait for baker’s chocolate to run out to go do it.

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Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)

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William Liao

William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)

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