Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

The great pyramid of Giza was built over 4500 years ago, and we’ve spent as many years puzzling over how it was done. Although one theory supposes that the Egyptians partnered with aliens who possessed levitation technology, most hypotheses focus on down-to-earth methods for dragging and lifting huge blocks of stone into place. The two most popular theories suggest that the stone blocks were dragged up either a massive frontal ramp or a corkscrew-shaped ramp attached to the exterior of the pyramid. Both of these popular theories have their flaws, however, so archeologists and engineers alike are still scratching their heads.

When the answer eludes us, we need a new way to look at a problem. That’s exactly what French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin found. He quit his day job, sold his house, and moved into a small apartment where he devoted his time to figuring out how the pyramid was constructed. He emerged, eight years later, with a theory that is startling, inspiring, and, according to Houdin, the only one that works. He suggests that internal ramps that still exist within the pyramid were used to transport the blocks to the top. (It’s interesting to note that Houdin’s theory is supported by visuals made with the latest in 3-D computer imaging technology. Check out the program on The National Geographic Channel.)

Whether you’re a scientist, a writer, a web programmer, or an educator, Houdin’s story inspires us to revisit the power of unconventional thinking. As a designer, I’ve learned to be suspicious of the first answer that comes to me. That first idea may be expected, conventional. Conversely, the best solutions have depth. They surprise us and challenge the status quo.

Pablo Picasso once said of his creative process, “When one begins a picture one often discovers fine things. One ought to beware of these, destroy one’s picture, recreate it many times. On each destruction of a beautiful find… he transforms it, condenses it, makes it more substantial.”

Communicators can’t expect audiences to pay attention if we serve up the same old information in the same old forms. Instead, let innovators such as Houdin and Picasso inspire your creative process: think, rethink, think, and rethink again.