Doing vs analysing

Thanks to Piers Young (and the cast of bloggers who make up the chain:Jim McGee, Ole Eichhorn, Ottmar Liebert and Kevin Kelly) for this fascinating anecdote:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group: fifty pound of pots rated an A, forty pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an A. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Following the train of comments in the various blogs, this has been a very inspirational story. Perhaps in part because it challenges a commonly held but often oppressive idea: that we need to analyse before doing. Actually, in complex systems (and being human is complex) it’s vital to try stuff before analysing. (see my entry on Dave Snowden)(Or more subtly, it is a mistake to separate the doing from the analysing).

This also resonates with the fabulous book I’m reading at the moment, Changing Conversations in Organisations by Patricia Shaw. This is such a fantastic book I can’t do it justice here, but essentially Shaw discusses

(moving from a) thought-before-action, design-before-implementation, systematic, instrumental logic of organizing, towards a paradoxical kind of logic in which we see ourselves as participatingin the self-organizing emergence of meaningful activity from within our disorderly open-ended responsiveness to one another

Shaw is talking about how we talk to each other, the story is about making pots; they’re both about recognising that it is misleading to think we can entirely separate thinking from doing – an insight that may trouble a great many management thinkers. Anyone who loves Improv work (eg me!) wouldn’t bat an eye though.

8 thoughts on “Doing vs analysing

  1. Mathemagenic

    Quality the emerges in action

    I know that I’m not going to catch up with all interesting posts from Internet-cafe, but I’m still trying 🙂 John Moore ( and long chain of others ) point to a quote from Art

    Reply
  2. tonygoodson

    Doing vs Analysing

    The Ourhouse Weblog: Doing vs analysing A great post by John Moore. The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would

    Reply
  3. tonygoodson

    Doing vs Analysing

    The Ourhouse Weblog: Doing vs analysing A great post by John Moore. The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would

    Reply
  4. tonygoodson

    Doing vs Analysing

    The Ourhouse Weblog: Doing vs analysing A great post by John Moore. The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would

    Reply
  5. Monkeymagic

    Quantity vs Quality II

    You can’t entirely separate thinking from doing. But while you can’t divorce them, you can make them sleep in separate rooms.

    Reply
  6. Monkeymagic

    Quantity vs Quality II

    You can’t entirely separate thinking from doing. But while you can’t divorce them, you can make them sleep in separate rooms.

    Reply
  7. Monkeymagic

    Quantity vs Quality II

    You can’t entirely separate thinking from doing. But while you can’t divorce them, you can make them sleep in separate rooms.

    Reply
  8. What's Your Brand Mantra?

    Analysis Paralysis

    Thanks to John Moore (who passed it on from Piers Young and a list of others) for the link to the following story: The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All

    Reply

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