The Bibliography is over

I was talking to someone about a presentation I will be making to his marketing staff in the coming weeks.  I took him through a basic flow of the topics and ideas and explained a little bit about each. But also made reference to the point that it was only about 60% finished. He then asked me when I expected to have the final presentation ready, and I’m pretty sure I surprised him with my answer:

“I’ll just make the rest up on the day”

It wasn’t a throw away comment either. I meant what I said. He paused for a while, and seemed concerned. After all it is a paid for gig. He then laughed and said; “Are you serious?” I told him that I was and went on to explain the following.

“You’ve heard me speak before, which was what lead to you inviting me to speak to your team. The good news is I made up about half of that talk too. So I’ve done it before, and it is pretty much how I roll. The reason I do it that way is it enables me to feel the audience. It enables me to react to the content which is resonating more strongly with them. My job when communicating isn’t about delivering a canned sermon. It’s about sharing information that matters and inspires the audience, and I can only know what that is once I get started. So it is up to me to know enough about the topic to change direction on demand.”

He was pretty satisfied with that answer. But it also brings me to another point.

Why do we teach our kids and our employees that everything must be justified?

Why is it that where we got our information from matters so much in a corporate world and the academic world? The people ‘in charge’ so often like to reference where the facts come from, and all too often dismiss any idea which isn’t justified and verified before by some ‘authority’. As far as I can tell this is another example of old world thinking.

If the real value in life and in business is built upon originality, ideas and inspiration, then it might also be about time that we stop validating intellectual and emotional labour. Just because it’s new thinking doesn’t make it invalid, in fact, the opposite is often true given the pace of change is now so rapid.  If our thoughts only have currency based on research, there’s a good chance we are already behind the crowd.

Startup blog says – forget the bibliography and make stuff up instead.


3 Comments The Bibliography is over

  1. Geoff Long

    I don’t thing the bibliography is justifying your idea — it just shows that you’ve surveyed what’s out there first. THEN you provide your spunky new idea, no justification needed. But it’s good to survey and acknowledge what’s gone before you.

  2. Lawrence Ladomery (@architxt)

    To me a bibliography is… the stories behind a story.

    Original ideas are often inspired from existing ones – developed concepts, scraps of information, intuitions and even the authors emotions as the idea develops in his or her head.

    It would be cool to know what exactly inspired you for this post beyond what you explain.

    So rather than retire them, it would be better to evolve them into a format that is more relevant to how we communicate and present information in this digital world of ours.

    I’ve blogged about this a few years ago…


  3. Julie Taylor

    Bibliographies & justifications have their place. Certainly in the scientific world, you need to have some justification for deciding to take a certain path or follow a certain idea. I don’t think my company would appreciate me spending $50K of their money without some evidence for why I think my idea will work. In conducting a literature search and researching my idea, it may well be that I find the idea has been tried before & didn’t work & I can investigate why that is & work out how to make it work.
    If I ran factory trials on every “fabulous” new idea a Marketer came to me with, I would have bankrupted the company by now trying to make products that aren’t scientifically possible! That is why a bibliography can be so important.
    You can also run the risk of looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about if you don’t have the story behind your story – to paraphrase Lawrence.

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