Lessons from a spatula

Yesterday I was told a delightful story about the paediatrician and analyst, Donald Winnicott. Winnicott was a pioneer in thinking about how mothers and babies relate and how that affects the child’s development.

He talks about a spatula game. He noticed that if a mother placed a spatula near the child, and waited, it was very likely the child would become curious about this new object and play with it. If, however, the mother tried to get the child to play with the spatula, the child was likely either to reluctantly play along, developing a passive kind of engagement. Alternatively, the child would react against this intrusion and become healthily defensive.

There’s all sorts of implications for those into psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, but I was thinking more mundanely about marketing. Especially as I stood on my cold doorstep while some unfortunate representative of Southern Electricity tried to lead me on an elaborate dance to do with changing my phone company.

For myself, I’d like to experiment a lot more with the careful placing of spatulas than shoving them in people’s faces and expecting them to play. Oh, and noticing more of the pleasant spatulas placed in my path and spending less time grappling with those of the spatula-shoving school.


3 thoughts on “Lessons from a spatula

  1. Cognitive Edge - Guest Blog

    Spatulas and learning

    Johnnie Moore passes on a cracking story that does a great job of capturing the (sometimes tiny) gap between control freaks/celebrity chefs and learners. Unfortunately I’m also reminded of a little challenge I talked myself out of a couple of…


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