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If an image is worth a thousand words, what is a word worth?

In a world of text messages, IM’s and tweets, 140 characters has become a standard and talking about “writing” can seem dated. In fact, some might think of writing as the obsolete activity of handwriting. While there recently has been several books arguing for the need to think of handwriting, I’ll be more “modern” here and consider writing as a mode of communication that one can do with a keyboard as well as with a pen or pencil.

But why talk about writing when we “know” that an image is worth a thousand words, and a video is a powerful advocate to your idea? Why talk about writing, in a world of images, videos and podcasts? Why would we need to know how to write?

Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists who have looked at the development of the brain and its evolution with the invention of writing have part of the answer: with the invention of writing, human brains evolved and developed the areas that are engaged for analytical and creative thinking.

Classical scholars and historians have another part of the answer: the birth of the Greek alphabet (and others to follow) allowed Western societies to develop the scientific and philosophical theories upon which our inventions and new ideas are grounded.

Anca Metiu and I found more evidence in our research: in particular we showed how successful online collaborations, like what we found in the open source movements or on open innovation platforms, heavily rely on the power of writing – which forces us to articulate and reflect.

Writing is in fact a way of thinking with our hands, similar to the way engineers think with their hands when they sketch, or designers think with their hands when they prototype. In fact, our research shows how writing is crucial in innovation and creative thinking. Whether you are planning your pitch, storyboarding a video, sketching a scenario or putting together a PowerPoint presentation, at the end of the day, you still need to develop a compelling story and a strong argument, and that’s what writing allows you to do… If you want to know more or discuss this topic further, please join us on May 30th at INC39.COM

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