Doctor’s Note - Issue 24 - Output Is Input
In this issue: Output Is Input / Guff of the Week / Power of Ten / The Linkhole / Book Corner
Output is Input
There may be people out there who conceive of ideas in crisp, clean sentences and can deliver them as if they are reading off a mental autocue. I am not one of them. The only time I have witnessed this was Bruce Sterling’s brilliant closing keynote address at Interaction ’11in which he appeared to read notes from his Moleskine and string them together, off the cuff, into a razor-sharp commentary on the hubris of designers and tech.
One of the reasons for inflicting my thoughts on you in this newsletter is that I use writing to think. (Don’t complain, you signed up for it.) Making, speaking or writing helps us think more clearly. “Output is input” is a phrase that came up recently with a coachee who wanted to get more input through reading and interviews during holiday downtime before she got on with the writing. Research is important and fascinating, but it can easily become a great way to procrastinate — “Just one more book and then I’ll be able to perfectly write that chapter.” As we head into the holidays with plans for catching up on reading, watching or listening, sometimes it can be a chance to make or write that thing you’ve been meaning to get around to.
Writing is never a complete act. There is always the necessary shitty first draft, without which there is no second draft and the final draft still always has holes. I once read an interview with J.R.R. Tolkien about the writing of Lord of the Rings in which he explained how, once he had got to the end, he had to go through the entire book backwards to make it all fit together.
Most of the time you don’t have clarity of your ideas until you have tried expressing them in a few iterations. For me, presentations and articles start as a kind of uncooked casserole. It starts as a jumble of half-related ingredients in the pot with some vague sense that they all connect in some way. It takes stewing time for something edible to emerge and it needs a cycle of tasting and seasoning before it’s ready.
Editing and filling in the gaps in your work means going off to look for the things that will plug those knowledge gaps. That time is delicious and precious. Usually, you will find more than you need and other threads to pull on. That is how output becomes input.
If you follow Hemingway’s advice and stop writing when you know what will happen next, you will also know how to get started the next day. It’s the best antidote to procrastination I know.
(Minestrone Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash)
Guff of the Week
For years I’ve been collecting vacuous statements from people in business and consulting when they don’t really know what they’re talking about, but want to sound like they do. They’re in a text file I keep called The Big Book of Guff. Until the leather-bound compendium is compiled and published in limited edition gold letterpress, I’ve decided to include one in each issue of Doctor’s Note.
I have no desire to shame individuals or companies directly, so while they may be given some context, they will remain anonymous. I’m sure I’ve been as guilty of speaking like this as anyone else. (But if you hear of any good ones, send them my way.)
This week’s one is from a management consultant:
“We need to reconfigure today’s process-focused model into the insight engine for the Upstream and Downstream business.”
Power of Ten
Two new episodes of my Power of Tenpodcast are out since the last Doctor’s Note:
Coming up is Tutti Taygerly returning to talk about her new book, Make Space to Lead.
Inside Apple Design – a rare profile of the space, team and working process of the people behind arguably the most widespread, high-end designed products in the world.
Rather than add my own reading of Peter Jackon’s Get Back documentary cut of the Beatles’ famous footage to the many already out there, I’m going to point you to this very good one by Jorge Arango. However, I would argue this is required watching for managers of designers more than designers themselves.
Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb has hundreds of objects from break-ups around the world. Thanks to my student, Stéphanie Bartels, for the tip.
Umair Haque on why It’s not a supply chain crisis, but a failing global economy.
From the Service Design Network, the role of service design in mapping uncharted territory
John Naughton asks, Can big tech ever be reined in?
More Synthetic Realities - Abba reunite for Voyage, first new album in 40 years but perform as avatars.
I was searching Indi Young’s website for something else, but came across a great article she wrote last year on Why Organizations Avoid Qualitative Research.
Fjord’s 2022 Trends are out. Broadly, I like and agree with them and it’s great to see an emphasis on culture and society over tech, but I think the Metaverse one will never happen and the “we vs me” is the wrong way around. Maybe more on all this soon.
Lots of “endings”-themed books this issue:
Overly busy people regularly make poor decisions and poor managers, despite thinking they’re being super productive. Tutti Taygerly’s, Make Space to Leadteaches the highly-driven how to take some time for themselves and benefit those they work with at the same time.
Joe MacLeod’s first book, Ends, on re-thinking the end of life, off-boarding experience was excellent. He has just published Endineering, the “how-to book about endings.” An appropriate read for the end of the year.
I have ageing parents and spend a lot of time wondering how things are going to work out. If you do to, I can recommend Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, which is probably best described by a quote from the book’s site: “Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of ageing and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.”
Speaking of looking back on life and learning from the wisdom of those who have lived a full one, Irvin Yalom’s Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir is well worth a read, as are all of his books.
Finally, take a look at my online courses if you have any end of year training budget to use up.
That’s it for this issue and for 2021! Thanks for reading, sharing and listening. I appreciate you all.
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I wish you all an inspired, healthy and re-energising holiday season.