ThinkingMore on disfluency

More on disfluency

We’re off to the US on holidays this week so it will only be a quick update today, and then no posts for a few weeks. First stop is Texas for a mate’s wedding. It will be my first taste of an “open carry” state. And then on to New York with Lyn to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

Last week’s post on disfluency provoked some interesting reactions from readers:

  • Jeff Mason, a former senior college principal, noted that “This finding fits well with the theory of teaching. Students learn more when they do it themselves.” I’m sure that’s right – educators have known this for ever – even if they haven’t called it “disfluency”. You only really understand something once you’ve got your hands dirty with it.
  • Tony Weir, a former colleague and now Principal Consultant at InPlay Arts, notes that disfluency applies when you are presenting in a business context. He deliberately creates artifacts by hand, artifacts which are “less polished” in order to provoke disfluency: “I think about the people I’m presenting to – they are awash in professionally produced, perfect powerpoint. I know that something that retains the hand of the maker will stand out. And it will stand out because it will invite them to think about the process of creating, not just the results.” Tony’s comments are worth reading in full. You can do so at the bottom of the post here. He also has tried to visualise how to find the sweet spot between both rigorous thought and “provocation to disfluency”. Have a look at his diagram here.

Disfluency should also give you pause if you are redesigning business processes. I see a lot of clients move the “easy work” in a business process to automation or overseas, retaining the “thinking work” for their professionals back home. This “easy work” is often the set-up work before a professional decision needs to be made. For example, the basic book-keeping. Or the entering of data for an underwriting decision on an insurance contract, or a credit decision on a loan. But I wonder. How much of a professional underwriter’s or credit officer’s decision is based on the “disfluent work” of actually entering the data and dealing with it raw? Maybe these professionals will need to find new ways to make the nicely presented data a little more disfluent so they can actually make good decisions.

So, that’s all for this week. I’ll start posting again from mid-September. Think of Lyn and me in the Texan Summer heat next week.