How does a #LinkyBrain work?

Richard Watkins
Mar 21, 2018 · 4 min read

So a clever man I know and like, posted something online about #LinkyBrains — a way of being wired where new connections come easy. It turns out to be a concept he coined with a few of his friends and they posted about it here and here and here. It feels good to feel known and so naturally people who felt similarly linky joined in the conversation, and now people are meeting up around it.

I liked the concept instantly. Apart from liking everything with a snappy name, LinkyBrains seemed to capture a kind of contemporary archetype, which combines traits (maybe: openness, impatience, contrarian), skills/practices (maybe: ability to connect ideas and actions, persuasiveness), and opportunities/privileges (maybe: wide variety of input, independence/choice, loud voice). Either way, I’m 100% linky and, quite frankly, who amongst us doesn’t want to get on board with a concept that aggrandises yourself? We see you introverts.

Having variously been called intense, impressive, chaotic, creative, skittish, and surprising —I eventually came to terms with being a somewhat “different” specimen — I like how LinkyBrains holds some of those ideas together. Here’s how I testify my LinkyBrain (although let’s not assume there is only one way to be linky):

  1. I think between things not about things. Which means on any topic I can think/talk about how it relates to other topics/ideas. Or I can look at a very sweeping principle and come up with tangible implications, or look at a tiny detail and blow it up to an overarching concept (I talk here about vertical creative thinking). I can cut and reshape concepts into new constellations.
  2. I find ideas obvious and immediate. Because ideas are just the novel combination of existing concepts. I don’t see ideas as possessions (my idea, your idea) but have come to see them as things we connect to or channel (cred: Elizabeth Gilbert + Gestalt). Things that already exist but that I can see like other people see music or colour or ghosts. Honestly, I still struggle to really accept that people find ideas hard. For me it’s much harder work to not see ideas.
  3. I’m a polymath. A scientist, an innovation strategist, an artist. My work with organisations has spanned sectors (media, banking, local govt, development, prisons, consumer goods, place-making), cultures (20+ countries) and scale of organisation (blue chip to social enterprise start-up). My creative practice spans form and function (visual arts, performance, a few poetry books, global collaboration, public art, therapeutic arts). I’m widely (if shallowly) read but can get a grip on underlying concepts swiftly. Loads of people are way more intelligent than me, understand things more profoundly than me, and there are topics/facts I don’t know. But my value is I can link things up.
  4. I’m rapid. Like all of these things its a blessing/curse. The rush of energy to comprehend something is delicious. This quickness makes the acceleration of information (twitter etc) feel natural/comfortable. I’m also impatient and struggle to wait. I’m unbearable with boredom and bureaucracy. People tell me i’m exhilarating/energising to be around but also exhausting/intimidating. Can make me an infuriating boss/friend.
  5. I follow through on ideas. I see thinking/talking noble only in as much as it leads to doing — I want to lead thought into grounded action (not be a “#thoughtleader”). When I was younger someone said I was not a completer-finisher but history speaks otherwise if you look at all the things I have completed and finished. I am for sure an originator/improver, rather than an operator/optimiser —but I will invest over time in what I believe in. Eg we are 8 years into The Borough Common.
  6. I collaborate (and understanding how to get more from collaboration is what I’m currently building a business around). I am open, always ready to listen to wisdom/experience/expertise, keen to open the circle to new perspectives. But this tendency for open sharing/building puts me at a disadvantage in some negotiations (I can be a little naive), and an open-access approach to groups sometimes undermines the slow work of building stable alliances. I understand people very well but am not always as fluent connecting outside of a clear context.
  7. I am messy and my life and mind moves towards disorder. The other side of a creative coin. I am a disaster at systematic steady predictable thought processes. I struggle to motivate myself for maintenance activities and developing habits takes a lot of work. I need a cleaner. I forget to eat. I get totally lost trying to spell. I will need a MD for my business at some point.
  8. I’m often uncertain (always seeing multiple options, possibilities, improvements) but occasionally, when the time is right, I find it easy to be exceptionally brave. Like leaving home at 16, quitting a job, starting a company. When it feels right it feels right. Conversely, I have a low tolerance when things don’t feel right.
  9. I want reality not fantasy. The truth is always good news, even when it’s hard. My brain wants to buzz but (ironically?) the linkyness gets more powerful as I get more grounded. Yoga and other grounding practices (gestalt, bioenergetics, somatics) made a big impact on my state of calm, relationships and ability to get things done.
  10. Like water, I go stagnant if I’m not flowing. But I’m finding that the flow can come from depth as well as novelty.

Do you have LinkyBrains?


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