Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Putting ideas into language - and sharing them - makes them come alive

Ever heard someone say, "I have a book all figured out--I just have to put it on paper"? Millions of us are like that. The biggest delusion in this statement is that something in one's head exists for anyone but the thinker. It doesn't.

Which brings me to a great article in this month's Harvard Business Review (link - $) from Steelcase CEO James Hackett on using ideas from complexity theory to enhance the front end of the company's product development and launch process. (Worry not; it's a very practical article.)

Hackett makes a compelling case for taking a beginner's mindset, thinking deeply, and learning before starting implementation of a new product idea. He shows how this worked for Steelcase entering the market for clinical workstations. But this small quote also caught my eye.

Throughout [the thinking phase,] they document the depth and breadth of their research to assemble information into a sensible whole. Documentation is critical; the kinesthetic work cements their thinking [emphasis mine] and creates tangible evidence of their efforts....

The same concept was part of the Gap International and Anecdote Narrative in Business (which also touched on complexity theory) workshops I recently attended.

In summary: putting ideas into language forces your brain to organize and make sense of them; sharing the ideas commits yourself to them and allows others to commit as well.

[It's one of the uses I find for this activity of blogging.]

(Photo from andybahn via stock.xchng)