Writing is HARD.
I think that one of the reasons that writing is hard is that it requires clarity of thought. It requires a purpose. And the blank page can imply a lack of both.
Writing also requires a certain level of technical skill, in order to avoid using awkward phrases like “I think that one of the reasons that writing is hard is that…” Yikes. That’s some bad writing right there.
HOWEVER… the secret to good writing is to first write badly. Good writing is just bad writing, rewritten. And so, good writers allow themselves to write bad first drafts, turning off their inner editor and letting the words flow, however messily.
One might even perform an exercise such as the following:
“These words I am currently writing are the wrong words. I am writing them but they are not exactly what I want to say. This is ok. I will delete these words later, because they do not make my point, do not advance the narrative, do not add clarity or value to the overall piece, and some of them are probbabbly misssplled. They do, however, help me build momentum and they give me something to work with, even if the only work to be done is the work of deletion. I will now delete this previous paragraph, because what I really want to say is…”
So… maybe writing is EASY.
Just put ink on paper.
Yeah, I like that.
Ink now, think later.
Maybe that makes sense.
Maybe it’s true.
Maybe it’s good advice?
I don’t know yet, but I might know tomorrow, when I come back to this page and read it with tomorrow’s eyes, a fresh eraser, and a sharpened pencil.
What does this have to do with ITK? A lot, actually, because communication is a key aspect of innovation. The best ideas in the world are worthless if we can’t express them clearly, so developing our ability to write is an important component of our ability to innovate.
The funny thing about the Innovation Toolkit is… it’s not really about innovation.
Or more specifically, it’s not just about innovation. Most of our focus is actually on helping teams work together to solve hard problems. The fact that this approach to collaborative problem-solving tends to produce results that are novel and impactful (i.e. innovative) is sot of an added bonus. But the whole “working well together” thing is the main point.
Then again, the ITK movement is all about new ways of working together, bringing new groups together in new and interesting ways. We help teams function more effectively by being more collaborative, by asking better questions, and embracing more diversity. We introduce new tools and new techniques that help to unlock new levels of creativity.
So… maybe that’s what’s so innovative about ITK. Maybe the real innovation is the friends we made along the way.
Today’s post is by soon-to-be certified ITK Facilitator Casey Creech
I learned an important lesson about facilitation in 9th grade English class.
I wanted help spelling a word. I don’t remember the word. I do remember my teacher handing me the dictionary. She said, “Where can you find it in here?”
As I took the dictionary back to my desk, I remember feeling stunned. The more I sat with it on my desk, the more I became frustrated. I wanted a quick answer.
- She knew I was in a rush.
- I didn’t’ have time to look up the answer.
- I need it now before class ended.
- She was the expert.
- Why didn’t she tell me the answer?
It took me over 30 years to realize the value in her lesson. It was the move of a grand master. A guru of teachers. If she had told me the answer, she would have stolen the knowledge from me. The knowledge of finding the answer myself.
I realize a truth now. When we rush to help others, we often become a thief. A thief stealing lessons of learning.
When we ask questions, we create silence. The more open ended our questions, the greater the silence. The greater the tension. Tension is where learning occurs. Tension is where breakthroughs happen.
Practicing silence is challenging. You must resist primal urges. When you ask a question and there is not response, often it feels like this:
- After 3 seconds, you become tempted to clarify. To remove the silence.
- At 5 seconds, your internal voice may start asking, “Did anyone hear me?”
- At 10 seconds, it can feel like you are failing. Every second after this seems like an eternity.
Yet in these moments of silence, the group is experiencing similar tension. They are learning how to best answer the question themselves. You are giving time to discovering an answer. It is a gift mixed with a little alchemy.
I often count after I ask a question. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three… I’ve never gotten to 20 seconds. Someone has always spoken. This moment relieves the tension. Someone else filling the void opens the group to discussion.
The trick is not to let it be you. Let silence create the tension needed for the group to move forward.
How can you give the gift of silence to the next group you work with?
Tools like the Mission/Vision Canvas, the Problem Framing Canvas, and the Premortem tool all help teams develop a brief statement of some sort. It’s a pretty good feeling when the group comes up with a formulation or a phrase that they all agree on, and the statement itself can be a really helpful foundation and guide as the project or effort moves forward.
However, the work isn’t necessarily complete once the session ends and consensus has been reached. The group may have a pretty good version of a Vision Statement or a Problem Statement, but what they do next will determine how effective that statement is. I recommend a three-step process that looks something like this.
- Sleep on it. Set the statement aside and come back in a day or two with fresh eyes. You may discover it’s not as clear and clever as it seemed at the time. You may uncover a gap or a friction point, an opportunity to improve it… or you may confirm that it’s exactly what you hoped it would be.
- Socialize it. Share it with some colleagues who were not in the session and get their perspectives. Ask if it resonates with them – is it clear, accurate, actionable, etc? Testing it out and validating / refining the statement doesn’t have to take long or be super formal. In fact, it’s probably best if it’s quick and informal.
- Wordsmith it. Continue to play around with word choice and word order. Might the statement make more sense if you shuffled some parts around, swapped in a synonym, or made other changes? Sleeping on it and socializing it may unlock some new ideas you didn’t come up with in the original session.
As much as an ITK session aims to develop “clarity and consensus” on topics, keep in mind most of this work is actually iterative. We hardly ever follow the one-and-done path, and we like to remind people that there is a zero percent chance we got it one hundred percent correct on the first try. As a general rule, we get the most of out ITK sessions when we think about them as the beginning of a conversation rather than the end of one.