conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Posts Tagged ‘dumb sketch

Note to self: Don’t be (so) boring.

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Why do what we do? (Gotta keep asking)

Do something every day.WhatIsArt-04302015

Do that something every day for 30 years.

Has that something lost its freshness?

Over on Dumb Sketch Daily—my ongoing project of learning to see—every once in a while I get caught up with trying to create art. It is almost always a mistake for me to try to create art. I am no artist and the impulse to create art results in weirdly earnest dumb sketches, sort of like a child putting on dad’s tie (do dad’s wear ties these days?) or mom’s high heels.

Still—one must experiment. And that experimentation is good because it draws the questions forward yet again.

Doing something every day, and somehow keeping it fresh, means asking the “Why am I doing this?” that drives the behavior. Yesterday I had to remember that my goal is not to create art. Making art is simply too high and too unrealistic a goal for me. It works for others, and many who comment on that blog and whom I follow are creating honest-to-goodness, bona fide, Grade A art.

Every single day.

But not me.

I’m just trying to see better. That’s a goal and purpose I can rally around. Trying to see how light shines on stuff. Trying to see what a face looks like, the creases, the asymmetry, the tractor beams that shine from eyeballs. Seeing what posture says. Seeing how shadow falls across a 100 year-old building. All of that happens as I try (and mostly fail) to capture real life on paper. The real life happening around me.

WalletKeys-04292015

Something good and productive happens with revisiting the “Why?” question. My sense is that if I can be reengaged with the question, and with seeing how it was answered differently today, I may even be less boring. At least for a few moments.

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Dumb sketches: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

April 30, 2015 at 9:06 am

If you say a dumb sketch, will others pay attention?

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Engineers aren’t the only ones who love to correct you

I’ve been repeating myself recently to different people and groups within my client’s shop.TheHand-04212015

I’ve been saying aloud the oral version of a dumb sketch. I’ve been telling and retelling the story of how I thought one thing but then in conversation with different experts, came to see what I thought was really not so at all, but something different. I know this is terribly abstract and I apologize: We’re working on a new proprietary idea at the moment, so I cannot be too specific.

I thought X was like Y. But it turns out that X is very like Z. And when I tell that story—of trying and failing and trying—my listeners get it. They learn something. They jump to Z and each gets pretty excited about Z—they had not seen Z before. But now that Z is named and out there, Z may just change everything (and not in a breathless marketing-hype way, but really change how people move forward in this particular industry) (Which I cannot name.) (Sorry.) Each mini-audience put the pieces together and then leaps forward in a way my didactic, linear, word-driven paragraphs did not succeed at.

TryFailTry2-04222015The point of a dumb sketch is to be not-finished. A sketch is the opposite of the heavily produced diagram or slide. The “unfinishedness” of a sketch is the very crux of usefulness as a communication tool. By being unfinished, the sketch invites collaboration and improvement. And people seem to not be able to turn away—at least from the oral version. Failure is built right into my story, and who can resist gawking at a car wreck?

Maybe this is an engine behind John Stepper’s notion of “working out loud.” Maybe this is a key to how we collaborate with each other. We already do this with friends and family, but what if we extend our try-fail-try circle to include many others?

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Dumb sketches: Kirk Livingston

What Good Is a Group?

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The occasional spark. The intentional fire.

I’ve been wondering this lately: what good is a group?

Mrs. Kirkistan and I lead a small group that regularly meets together to read ancient texts. At the moment we’re slowly going through Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. It’s riveting stuff.

There comes a time in the life of every small group where people start to bow out. Life gets in the way. Work, sickness, commitments and gradually the small group is, well, really small. Only a few show.Group-04172015

Even so—with only one or two showing up—some magical spark can happen in the course of an ordinary conversation.  We talked about the pointed words Jesus had to say about lust and adultery—old terms we don’t hear much in our culture—experiences so common they seem to be just expected parts of everyday life. In the course of hashing through those words, we talked about seeing people as objects. And suddenly I was making connections with Levinas and Buber and realizing I am also in need of reforming bad thought habits.

These conversational sparks happen at work too. Yesterday I was lamenting to myself the ways large corporations dampen the enthusiasm of otherwise bright, motivated people. In the middle of that thought a client returned a call that we had cut short the day before. He had been thinking through our conversation and had five or six things to add. This client—from a very large corporation—had found a way to take personal ownership of the process and our discussion had a sort of breathless excitement to it.

This is rare.

And cool.

Our seemingly ordinary conversation had unearthed some live wire. And a group of us were doing our best to act on it.

So—all this to say that groups can do things individuals cannot. And sometimes a group conversation can create something brand new.

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Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Sometimes only a dumb sketch will do

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Show. And (perhaps) tell.

My client has a subset of curious employees who love detail. They work with detail all day, design with deep specificity and get impatient with any glossed-over, highlights-only story. They want the details and don’t weave in that marketing hooey.

These curious employees regularly talk with their customers who also want detail. One curious employee told me a story about a conversation with a customer. The customer didn’t get how this product could work—the benefits simply did not register. Then the employee showed the customer a cut-away drawing. The customer did the mental work and could instantly see the benefits of the product. The customer needed to do the work himself, and that work opened the door to the benefits.

Flatter for easier eating

Flatter for easier eating

 

Moral: Images can go where words fear to tread.

 

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

April 16, 2015 at 10:24 am

Catalyze This! (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #26)

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What to do: Engage colleagues or just put up with them?

G15Between David Rock and David Bohm there is a lot of good advice about helping people have productive conversations. Rock’s “Quiet Leadership” is all about helping your friend find the answer she already knows, which is particularly useful for folks with leadership responsibilities. Bohm, on the other hand, was an omni-thinking physicist with deep curiosity about ordinary life connections. Bohm (and Rock, for that matter) are two of my conversational heroes.
Here’s Bohm on how it is that something new gets created between two people (italics added):

Consider a dialogue. In such a dialogue, when one person says something, the other person does not in general respond with exactly the same meaning as that seen by the first person. Rather, the meanings are only similar and not identical. Thus, when the second person replies, the first person sees a difference between what he meant to say and what the other person understood. On considering the difference, he may then be able to see something new, which is relevant both to his own views and to those of the other person. And so it can go back and forth, with the continual emergence of a new content. That is common to both participants. Thus, in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together.

–David Bohm, On Dialogue (New York: Routledge, 1996)

Every day affords some catalyzing opportunity, often hidden in a very ordinary exchange.

How will you leap in to catalyze today?

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Dumb Sketch/Timed Gesture: Kirk Livingston

Happy “Draw a Bird” Day: Here’s a Turkey Vulture

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What will you draw?

TurkeyVulture--04072015

Draw a Bird Day

Reference photo

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

April 8, 2015 at 5:00 am

The World Needs You—Ms./Mr. Verbal Processor—Annoying As You Are

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Silence can be nice sometimes, too

I know a few people who process life verbally. I’m not naming names, but to be with them is to sit before an open window through which you hear internal debates, sharp intakes of breath in response to a new stimulus, and general narration about turning left or standing up or “I think I’ll eat a jelly bean.”

People process life in all sorts of ways, of course. I don’t know what I think until I write it down. Others might sketch a response to a life event. Others process a life event over the course of a three-hour bicycle ride. James Thurber could hold 1000 words in his head as his eyesight failed, processing and editing in his brain-pan and seeming to spit out a fully-formed essay or story.

And some talk it out: declaring boldly and then backing up to change direction. And then boldly declaring the opposite. They settle on a position over time (often). Sometimes it’s fun to engage in their internal debate. Sometimes it is maddening to witness the ebb and flow.Rescued-04062015

The ways we process life are not mutually exclusive, we might each do all of the above to figure out what is going on. It may take many conversations and many bike rides and many sketches to, say, process a larger than expected tax refund (ha), or a job loss. Or a death.

But the verbal processor plays a unique role among us. They are the ones who quickly spout a response to a question. They tend to be more comfortable in a group, or , perhaps this: for the groups they are comfortable in, they are even more verbal. The things they say become a sort of conversational/processing rudder against which we agree or disagree. But it is something nearly tangible (as tangible as words ever get) we can react to. The verbal processor does everyone a service by putting something out there for the rest of us to respond to. Their initial, fast response is a word that can rescue us from our solitude. Their quick work can help us avoid sitting passively while inside we are furiously yelling to get our heads around some new situation.

Kudos to the verbal processor.

Their out-flowing attempts to sort things pull the rest of us in as well.

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

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