One of main ideas behind the Nine Urban Biotopes project was to promote an exchange of knowledge between the visiting groups and the local population. Christian and Caroline asked us what we learned from the Sowetans, and asked our local collaborators what they learned from us.
Maybe the most important lesson we learned from working with the Sowetans was to think in outliers: rerouting takes more time and can bring a different result from what was originally planned. We learned that both ways of working – linear thinking and thinking in outliers – are equally important. For their part, our Sowetan collaborators told Christian and Caroline that they learned from us the importance of the future – the method of linear thinking, which is based on planning ahead.
Thinking in Outliers Brings Disruption
We are linear thinkers. When we built the platform in the park, we wanted to be efficient and not waste time. Time was an issue since our goal was to complete the platform in time for the Soweto Street Festival. Themba Skosana, the construction worker we collaborated with, had the habit of rerouting the work day by trying out ideas we thought were unnecessary. For instance, we lost half a day when he planned the construction of walls on the platform even though both he and we knew there would be no walls. I remember I kept saying, “This does not make sense.” Themba’s experimenting created a gap, a disruption in the straight line of working.
Thinking in Outliers Brings Success
We experienced the positive side of the gap on the day of the Soweto Street Festival. It was raining so heavily we could not start the parade. The policemen who were supposed to accompany the parade wanted us to cancel it since we were running out of time. The rain was an obstacle that could have cancelled the parade. The solution took the form of a personal intervention by a police officer who, together with Sannah and Swazi, organized minibus taxis to transport the Boys Brigade to Orlando East, thus saving both the parade and the festival. They rerouted the planned route.