The Poetics of Insight and Innovation
It’s probably rare that you have asked for more information in your work if you’re a health promoter, scientist or designer. Information is everywhere and, too often, in professional worlds, this information is presented in volumous tomes that are devoid of much of the energy that went into creating the knowledge in the first place. This is a problem for knowledge translation.
Poetry offers us insight to worlds that few other means of orality — written or otherwise. In 21st century Western countries, poetry is far less something considered worthy of serious study and is much more a tool of the romantics. We may learn about poetry in English class, but few of take it seriously enough to pursue beyond the halls of academe or a hipster-infused evening of spoken word at a local club once in a while.
That’s too bad.
Catholic scholars have used a process called Lectio Devina, a meditation on a specific phrase, to gain insight. Lectio (or Lexio) Devina involves taking a single phrase and meditating on its meaning at length. What is remarkable is how much information one can get from a single sentence or phrase. After considerable reflection, the multiple-layered storylines emerge and the options for
Consider what kind of knowledge we could glean is we took a more poetic approach to our work. By crafting it in depth, soaking into a single section, we have the ability to derive a more intense picture of what we are looking at.
Take a research paper. A published report or manuscript typically represents years of effort in conceiving an idea, gathering resources, undertaking a study and doing the work to transform data into information and into knowledge. Yet, the final product — the manuscript — is over viewed with relatively little appreciation. How often have we truly pondered and soaked up an article in depth? Really crticially questioned its contents and marvelled at the methodology, findings and recommendations in a manner that gave us the pause we took? This means going beyond p-values, ’N’, or saturation points to the heart of what the meaning is behind the article.
As authors, how often have we written something that was worth pondering and not just reflecting the minimum requirements or social conventions for publication?
As editors, do we encourage the kind of writing style and narrative formation that allows research and evidence to be displayed in a manner that encourages deeper reflection and not just represent an addition to the evidence that will be used without broader appreciation for the context from whence it came?
As publishers, do we create a space where these stories can be told? Or are we simply trying to add to the volume of literature, getting the kind of quick-bite science published without a sense of what it might mean beyond the study being reported and in the present moment?
As managers, teachers, researchers, and scholars are we taking space when offered and encouraging others to do the same?
How does our work pass when viewed from the perspective of Lexio Devina? Imagine if the research we did was greater, richer in its depth that begged us to question the phenomena of study in sufficient depth that we wouldn’t have to resort to reading hundreds of articles to gain what feels like a small crumb of knowledge.
There may be much in poetry, with its ability to say so much in so little space, that we can learn from. I don’t see haiku’s on randomized controlled trials anytime soon, but imagine staying up late at night reading and contemplating a research paper not because you had to go through it, but because you wanted to. You wished to savour the content, feel the words and enjoy the poetry of understanding? What would your work look like?
What might it produce differently than we produce now? Might it also reduce the overwhelming volume of information that we are simply unequipped to fully contemplate and synthesize?
Let’s try and find out. As we start a weekend devoted to celebrating labour, let’s contemplate what it might mean to labour differently and value what we’ve done a little more than we do now.