Theory is clean, practice is messy

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

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

Eric Zimmerman has a great post based on his experience of teaching design. A lot of this resonates with my own practice doing training/facilitation. He puts a big emphasis on practice and craft. Actually making things rather than just talking about making things. Models and frames are useful but not the truth:

The “truth” of a concept in game design is its utility – its value in solving a problem. Some concepts are more useful for some designers than others or for solving problems in certain kinds of games more than others. As Marvin Minsky has put it a concept is “a thing to think with.” The measure of whether a game design concept is “true” for you is whether or not it helps you solve a problem.

I love his phrase that “theory in clean, practice is messy.” When I’m doing the process I call action storming, we do many iterations of very short scenes taken from real life, usually “difficult conversations”. I encourage people to have a go, rather than just sitting there and trying to work it out. I’ll often jump in myself and try something a bit crazy just to open the space for what’s possible/permissible.

It reminded me of Jim Manzi’s picking out “smooth words for rough action” in a different context.

In many organisations, it’s the smooth words that help gain status. Reality is different… maybe a bit scarier, but way more interesting.

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