Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Welcome to the Talk-Lab

Hi, friends.
This blog is about creativity. Specifically, your creativity. And communication. I'll explain:

A few years ago a good friend of mine and I were having lunch and we realized that we were both felt that our understanding of communication left a lot to be desired. We'd both been active with organizations that worked to improve political discourse. My group held knee-jerk nights, her group held Open Mic forums. (More on both of these later) We discovered in our respective projects that what people are able to say to each other depends a lot on the rules that govern their discussion. A simple example: Say two people are talking but they are only allowed to use one word answers. How constructive is there discussion going to be? Probably not very. On the other hand there must be ways to make communication more productive too. So we figured that there are probably all sorts of ways to jiggle the rules people use to talk to each other. Different rules, in different situations would have all kinds of outcomes, allowing or forcing people to say all kinds of different things. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we understood these rules, and then designed discussions to help us get the results we want? Another example:
What if (this is an implausible scenario, of course) two politicians weren't getting along and obstructing any real governing? What if then their constituents decided to ask them to have some sort of a discussion to work out their problems? The constituents could design the discussion to make it more likely that the two would come together.

Understanding rules of communication, and having a range of communication tools would be useful to anybody who has to work with anybody else, not just for politics. My friend and I figured out a few things through our work. But we also realized that instead of trying to figure out everything for ourselves, we could try to create a place for everybody thinking about these things to come together to compile our collective knowlege.

Thus the Talk-Lab is a laboratory. People use it to find ideas for communicating with each other. You can use it to find an ice-breaker for a committee meeting. Or you can use it to find models for debates or other kinds of discussion. But we ask that you contribute, too. What have you learned about how people communicate? What causes and effects have you noticed in events that you have held? If the speaker is standing and everyone else is sitting, how does that tend change what the speaker says or how she feels?

We operate on the principle that no one knows anything till we've tried it. Could it make people more talkative if a meeting has food? Maybe. Give it a try. Then let us know how it goes.

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