Another day, another diphthong

The blogger's tools: caffeine, free wifi and an ipad

The first Archimentor workshop was run successfully this week! Very exciting. It was an Articulation Workshop (writing and speaking) with the team at Gloss Creative, and it was a very interesting evening. We ran through three exercises, one writing and two speaking. I was impressed not just by the supreme competence and excellent attitude of the team, but also by the way that the bits I thought would be harder for them were easier, and vice versa.

The workshop process is so rewarding, as it is a ‘live beast’ - once it is up and running it really takes off in surprising directions. The process requires a thousand minute adjustments made on the fly - tone and delivery are very important, and I was yet again struck by the fact that the way a challenge is framed has a significant impact on the way it is received and carried out.

The essence of what I discussed with the team was that the different methods of articulation - of making clear, of laying out the parts - are all related. One of the evening's three simple rules was that participants were to use all their skills, and this was an allusion to the idea of 'parallel processing'. Parallel processing is the concept that the same ideas can be processed or expressed in different ways, but rather than one way being 'right' and another 'wrong', they can all exist in parallel. Valuable knowledge and insights are created by repeating the same idea in a different way, and registering the subtle differences.

To give you an example, an excellent technique for clear writing is to start by speaking what you intend to write. By explaining an idea in conversation you are provided with a ready-made logical structure, simply due to the fact that we have an intuitive understanding of how to talk to each other - where to start, what to say next, and so on. It might not be the perfect explanation, but it generates a structure that can be critiqued in a different medium. The structure can be used to lay out a piece of writing, or a diagram, an illustration, or as the backbone of a report. The technique also works in all directions. For example, for clear speaking you might start by drawing, or making a diagram, or writing, and so on. It is simple but effective.

We also discussed the process of distillation. Distillation is a reduction of the whole to its constituent parts, and it is a natural consequence of expressing an idea in different mediums or forms. Each idea may have a spoken part, a written part, an illustrated part, a photographic part, an emotional part, an economic part, perhaps even a musical part - and doubtless many others. Each part has a different value, so by jumping between the techniques of articulation, by running them in parallel, you begin to frame up a complex and subtle picture of overall idea. Just in case you are skeptical about the idea of a musical part, a friend recently used the concept in his teaching in urban design. Each student's project had to be given a theme song by the student, which was played before each presentation. It was fun, a bit silly, and genuinely instructive.

I wonder what theme song the team would nominate for the workshop? I should put it to the vote: I am sure I would be surprised.