01 Architecture Essays, 05 Language & Writing

Language and Architecture

I have long suspected that my architecture skills grow with my language skills. If it is true, why is it true? Let me take a stab at thinking this through.

Here is one angle of attack. Architecture is a lot about constructing models of real systems. Architects throw models at each other when they discuss problems and solutions. As we thrash through argument and counter-argument the models morph until they converge or stop at some state of difference. These models take the form of images or drawings in the mind or they are materialised electronically or physically, on paper or in solid shapes.

If the prehistoric people who painted in Lascaux or Altamira could talk to us we would unravel so much about what they were trying to record, convey or affect. And this communication would be to understand shapes and ideas recognizable even today. Consider then how essential communication is to make sense of IT architecture models that are so abstract.

Communicating the problem or need clearly is half the job done for the solutions are often obvious. The solution half goes as smoothly and well as I can communicate my reasons for a particular solution, its constituents and how they work together. For this, I need the vocabulary to represent objects, characteristics, relationships, causes and effects. This is on the technical plane. But often to realize my architecture I have to convince people to think bigger, understand more and give more. This needs a whole other vocabulary of finance, economics, markets and organizations. Finally, I may even have to make them feel more emotion and then I take recourse to the language of ethics, philosophy, morality and psychology. Makes me tired just thinking of it.

I think I see why the more I read, the more language-related neural networks I form in my brain, the more I observe language and its effects, the easier I find it to dispatch architecture transactions well. I can feel the power of language in my work every day.

It’s interesting that to observe my internal, vocalised or written language is to observe my brain at work. As I get better at it I guess better the workings of the brains of others and can fill in the gaps in their language. It may make me a better listener and ‘understanding extractor’.

So I tell my architects, don’t take your language skills for granted. With great language, you can soar and enjoy your work. Observe yourself communicating in all ways, always. Read a lot, write a lot, observe a lot, rework your speech and writing a lot (even if the former only mentally).

Basically, be the opposite of dumb.

Published on 2018-07-27 09:42

Shashi on LinkedIn


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