“Imperfect” is the new “perfect”?

“Why use messy pen-paper-and-checkers-pieces – can’t you do it on the computer?”

At a Brown Bag Seminar at the World Bank, Regina Birner (IFPRI) and I presented how we used Net-Map to understand innovation systems in Ethiopia. As for the quasi inevitable question afterwards… see above.  “Inevitable” not because it was the World Bank but because it is such a common question that people ask when I do a  presentation about Net-Map. Funny though, the question rarely comes up with groups or individuals who participate in Net-Map activities. Nancy White (check out her cool blog), who attended the World Bank event, made a good point about why messy can sometimes be more than perfect: Drawing something on paper and playing around with checkers pieces invites everyone to participate, to draw and change and debate. If you come with a fancy computer tool that’s a completely different story, that looks like you are the expert and the glossy pictures you draw don’t look as if they are up for discussion.

That makes me think: Isn’t it funny how – as a society – it seems like we have agreed that everything is better and more professional if it is done on the computer?

4 Responses

  1. Here’s a corollary: Reminds me of the days when we had just started using the first word processing programs. Engineers who were used to monospaced computer documents could now write their specs and strategies in more readable, laser-output documents, with bolded headings, nice proportional-spaced output and so on.

    One engineer complained that the nice-looking printed output would make people think that it was a finished work and not reflect that it was really work in progress. The more dog-eared and coffee-stained, he said, the more credible it would be.

  2. […] “Imperfect” is the new “perfect”? […]

  3. Very nice post indeed! Made me think of my favourite TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson’s, ( http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html ) who talks about the body as a mere support to carry the head, so over-intellectualized we’ve become.

    The real and the virtual, 2 amazing universes communicating thru a 15″ gate, like a sand-glass.

    • Yes, Paolo, that’s one of my favourite TEDs as well. And now that I have a baby, it concerns me even more. As you can see above, I continue thinking about these issues…

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