Gutenberg parenthesis

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

I’ve been thinking a lot about that Gutenberg Parenthesis idea. I think we have inadvertently allowed the linear format of the printed book to be the gold standard for intelligence. So if we see statistics that young people aren’t reading long books anymore we assume that’s automatically a bad thing.

Well I think we massively over-reverence the ability to write tremendously long documents about difficult things. We seem to think that the best response to any crisis is to appoint a “Tsar” to churn out a big thick doorstopper.. And then of course our own intelligence is to be measured by our willingness to implement, unquestioningly, what this person says.

We create a grim unquestioned elitism that puts one particular type of intelligence at the top of the tree. And then we get a knowing-doing gap.

I think most meetings are generally hampered by the fetishising of “capturing” outcomes. This becomes another demand to worship at the altar of linear wordiness and can be pretty distracting from forming and recognising the alliances and conspiracies that actually get things done.

I’ve written a few articles, the odd chapter and even one book. Each one has been agony because this format creates such pressure to squeeze naturally rambling and interconnected ideas into a very limiting format. On a good day, that constraint can be massively creative; but I fear it often is not.

The best thing Viv and I do with the book what we wrote is to tear it up and distribute random pages among groups. So that they can read little bits and talk about them together. There isn’t a great virtue in the order we’ve imposed on our ideas. And incidentally, most meeting plans are attempts to impose a frigid linearity on processes that are, by their very nature, non-linear.

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