Tag Archives: NLP

When words are not enough

This is a simple plea for mixed teams and visual tools.

I once asked a friend if he dreamed in colour or black and white, and he said ‘neither, I dream in concepts’.   By contrast with both of us, many post-modernists  seem to believe that thought can only be verbal, but that way madness lies: The only validity of 1+1=2 is as a representation of words, and ‘one plus one equals two’ is a social construct.  Oh dear.

I challenge this doctrine that the Word is god.  When I want to work out how things relate to each other I find words are completely useless. They are are ok for communicating concepts (sometimes) but often I find them bad for uncovering concepts, and they are next to useless for working out how things relate to each other.

Years ago I learned a consultancy or counselling exercise whereby you or the client list(s) all the factors on 3x5s and the client organises them in groups on a table.  It is great for aggregating things together.

The house is a mess, the dog has fleas, the kids are in trouble for losing their home-work, and you’re broke because you’ve been buying lunch at work all month.

Write ’em on cards and put them all on the table along with everything else, and suddenly there’s the Eureka moment: the common thread is being short on time.  Deal with that and the other problems melt away.

But until you get the chance to move them around and play them off against each other, you think you’ve got dozens of impossible little problems, instead of one or two larger  ones.

There are many variations on this, and it’s used formally in a lot of project planning workshops for grouping activities into work-streams and blocking them out in time.

The pure gold in this approach is its value in working out the relationships between things.  You can do  on whiteboards, you can do it with cards, you can do it with post-its.  These days I am lazy, so I do it in PowerPoint or Visio. The point is that it’s a process, you won’t arrive at the finished diagram in five minutes, but the very activity of moving things around, like blobs in a lava lamp, will enable your thoughts to coalesce and clarify.

This isn’t just a post about tools, though. It’s saying that there are some conclusions you will never arrive at if you stick to words.  It helps to understand how your team think.  NLP divides thinkers up between the auditory, the visual and the kinesthetic.  I am increasingly doubtful about this, and find it more useful to place them within a venn diagram with circles for the numerate, the verbal and the visual.

Get one of each on your analysis team and so long as there’s no explosion, you will really be cooking with gas.  And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you get stuck on a problem, change  your tool.

Popping someone’s Pratchett cherry

I came across someone the other day who sorts their books into “Pratchetts” and “not Pratchetts”. The Pratchets are on the shelf in the order that Pratchett wrote them, the rest are in any old order at all.

(That’s nothing by the way. You would not believe the number of people who sort by size. And then there’s the couple who sort by owner (a shelf for His and a shelf for Hers). And those are the sane ones. What about the person who sorts his books, all his books, in the order they were first printed? Or the girlfriend of mine who sorted hers by colour? And an upsetting number of people don’t sort them at all.)

I distracted myself on my way to the point, there. Sorry.

The point is that I have a colleague who hasn’t read any Pratchett at all and in this case it’s a shame, because he’d like them. He tried The Light Fantastic once, and found it irritating so gave up which is fair enough: the first two are irritating plotless and, to be honest, not particularly good.

So I have taken it upon myself to pop his Pratchett cherry – but where to start? The early ones are weaker, the later ones assume a certain level of familiarity with the Discworld. The Witches series go down better with the girlies. The Watch series are better read in sequence. The Death series are just a little too odd to start with. Hogswatch is too dark. Pyramids too lightweight. The Truth and Going Postal too fair to middling. Small Gods too unusual. Monstrous Regiment is really too unusual, and Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Carpe Jugulum and Thud all have the same plot anyway.

It’s an onerous responsibility, choosing someone’s first Pratchett.

So I’m re-reading them to work out which one would be best.

I may be some time.