Provocative actions or provocations are interesting phenomena. Provocation is often used as an excuse or a defence. He provoked me to do it. So it’s all his fault. No defence is needed for my actions. He was the instigator. Used in this sense provocation does not seem too attractive a word.
Nevertheless used in another way the word has a mostly positive quality. That’s where provocation is used to stimulate new ideas. Just as the irritant of a speck of sand can cause an oyster to produce a pearl, a provocation may be the source for a completely original idea.
Provocation is a standard method in creativity sessions. The brain has a whole web of interconnected synaptic circuits that link ideas. When one idea is mentioned, then through this provocation another line of thought may come to mind. Sometimes the end point can be most unexpected given the starting point. Indeed this post will be an illustration of where provocation took me this weekend.
In passing it should be mentioned that no provocation in some cases can be far worse than acts of provocation. As the old Yorkshire man said as he sat on the village bench in the afternoon sun, “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.” No provocation at all can be mind destroying. This has been demonstrated by the use of sensory deprivation techniques in interrogations.
The perceptive reader may of course ask what provoked this particular topic at this particular time. As you might imagine it was acts of provocation that produced favourable outcomes. In short, Mike Grehan wrote an article in ClickZ entitled Goodbye, SEO Push. Hello, SEO Pull. This provoked Rand Fishkin to write in his SEOmoz Blog an article about his concerns in a post now entitled Mike Grehan on Those in the Sandbox. Despite the provocative nature of the exchange, Mike Grehan then replied in his blog with a long and insightful item with the title Please don’t let me be misunderstood.. This final piece to my mind was the best of the lot and has certainly helped to create a well-rounded discussion on the issues involved.
Indeed the provocation process didn’t end there for me. In reading the SEOmoz Blog, I happened to notice an item entitled Search Engines? Bah! Who Needs ’em. This has some interesting statistics on the visitors to the SEOmoz Blog. The 3rd most frequent external referrer to the SEOmoz Blog after SlashDot and Google was del.icio.us I had seen reference to that particular entity only hours before in a topic started by Randall McCarley in the Cre8asite Forums on Social Bookmarks. He has written a full article on this entitled About Social Bookmarks Although this blog has used Technorati tags for some time, these social bookmarks were something seen only in peripheral vision. I was provoked enough by this topic to do some more research and the topic is now solidly on the list of things to do.
In summary, although provocative actions may produce stresses and occasionally negative reactions, they can also fuel innovation. That’s better by far than never being provoked at all.