Snapshots and flow

While reading David Eagleman's "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain", I came across this amazing story:

A striking example of this principle comes from a woman who in 1978 suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. Fortunately, she lived; unfortunately, she suffered irreversible brain damage to parts of her visual system—specifically, the regions involved in representing motion. Because the rest of her visual system was intact, she was able to see stationary objects with no problem. She could tell you there was a ball over there and a telephone over here. But she could no longer see motion. If she stood on a sidewalk trying to cross the street, she could see the red truck over there, and then here a moment later, and finally over there, past her, another moment later—but the truck had no sense of movement to it. If she tried to pour water out of a pitcher, she would see a tilted pitcher, then a gleaming column of water hanging from the pitcher, and finally a puddle of water around the glass as it overflowed—but she couldn’t see the liquid move. Her life was a series of snapshots.

Amazing... and scary. Can you imagine your life as a series of snapshots? You'd lose all sense of movement, and you'd stop being able to predict the motion of things, because you wouldn't really be there in real time. Your views would be a (more obvious) aftermath of whatever reality is, a static summary of something you just perceived and a million other things you didn't. Your connection with the world would weaken. Your sense of flow would disappear.

Psychological and biological issues apart, I believe we can learn a lot with this story about the importance of connections. Our lives, careers, love affairs and ideas are usually presented as a series of snapshots from which we create meaning, something that connects them. Otherwise, it's just like looking at someone's photo album without knowing the stories behind those pictures. You would be able to imagine what happened in those moments; but you probably wouldn't fully understand them until someone provided an explanation.

Connecting things is simply giving them context. What do a piece of filet mignon, a candle, your new shoes and a cab have in common? Very little, unless we give the context of a romantic date. The context connects these things and gives them meaning. It creates a flow of episodes which suddenly make sense in your head. Context prevents them from being simple unrelated objects and turns them into a story.

When thinking about context, I love the analogy of a good hip-hop song, or freestyle rap. It's all about mental flow. Flow drives connections. Connections drive context. And context enables a good story to flourish. It's the difference between just having a series of tasks, photos or clichés and having a logical point of view about why all those things, when put together, can create something unique.

This is the most important lesson someone working with strategy can learn, because strategy is mainly connecting different variables to serve a predefined purpose. So that instead of a series of snapshots/ideas, sequential but lost in time, we can work to have a full-grown ongoing vision about what's going on, what's coming next and, most importantly, why those two realities matter to your audience.