Release the reader’s tension – call and response

by | 29 Jun 2021

After a meandering, lyrical piano intro, the double bass locks in the tempo with a bubbling lick answered by two longer open chords from the keyboard. Then the bass takes back the initiative to scoop up the rhythm once more. Again the piano responds. After a few bars of this to and fro, the brass instruments join in with the piano’s gentle tug of war with the bassline.

So what?

Exactly. This is the beginning of Miles Davis’s “So What” from his classic album Kind of Blue.

In music, this back and forth is called “call and response”. A phrase asks a question that is answered by another part of the band or during a solo by the original player.

How is this relevant to complexity and systems thinkers? Well, we can mimic this pattern to make our writing clearer and more relevant.

How? As we introduce new ideas, tell stories, show diagrams, make statements, or ask questions, we should consider the queries that may arise in the reader’s mind.

Why do we need to do that? If we pile up too many new concepts, we may leave the reader in a spin. Their queries and questions may build into a mess of confusion or frustration.

What to do? We can engage in a call and response with the reader, answering their challenges as we go, building and releasing the tension of new ideas versus explanation and illumination. We use our experience to predict the reader’s questions, release the pressure and increase the clarity as we go.

What’s the result? Hopefully, we leave the reader with their questions answered, confident that we have rigorously thought through our topic and been clear about its strengths and weaknesses. 

Photo by Chris Bair on Unsplash

Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner