Friday, May 9, 2008

Jump Ropes And Magic (Serious Play)

I got tired last night and couldn't write about the other two things that really impressed me yesterday at the Serious Play conference. The first was the talk given by Helen Hood Scheer. She has recently finished a documentary movie, called Jump, about the growing competitive (!) sport of jumping rope. She also brought with her the best jump rope team in the country to perform. Beyond the sheer athleticism required (see the trailer for her movie below), I was enormously impressed with the way she talked about cooperation and collaboration in the sport. Apparently, the athletes want to take the sport to the Olympics (don't laugh, you can compete in 40 countries at the national level in jump rope...) and are willing to cooperate in ways that might actually hurt their own individual chances. It gives one hope for the Intelligence Community...

The other speaker that was interesting was the magician, Jamy Ian Swiss. Swiss teaches people how to be professional magicians. He did a number of pretty spectacular sleight of hand tricks. While they were impressive, I was more interested in some of the hints he gave about the art of performing. First, he said you should try to act away your mistakes and not explain them away. He indicated that the natural response to a mistake is to try to talk it away and that some of that is inevitable but he also showed how, by including some movement or other action, it made the mistake have much less impact. I intend to figure out a way to incorporate this insight into my classes on presenting intelligence to decisionmakers.

Swiss also stated that a good performance was inevitable not obvious. In magic, everyone knows that the trick will work. It has to. No matter what happens, no matter how disastrous things seem to be going, it is all part of the trick -- and we know that. That's inevitability. Obvious is coming out and just doing the trick or, even worse, explaining it. Obvious trivializes, inevitable seems more profound. Inevitable also captures attention (the key to learning) much better than obvious. I think about the best classes I have attended and I realize that there was more of the inevitable about them than the obvious.

Related Posts:
Cosmology, Psychology And The Mathematics Of Crease Patterns ... And That Was Just Day One (Serious Play)
Livebogging The Serious Play Conference

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