Thinking in Bits

What’s a bit?

A small amount of something, right?

Or perhaps your mind goes to technology. Bits and bytes. Binary, all those zeroes and ones.

What about when we think in bits?

We’re probably thinking like engineers: honing down the software so it runs at its most efficient; calculating the Kilo, Mega, Giga and Tera bits and bytes required. Our thinking is precise, incisive, focused, logical. 

Or if we’re thinking in bits, maybe our minds are scattered. 

Our thinking is in bits. 

Thoughts come in unwieldy pieces. They’re not cohesive, flowing, or fully formed.

Two ways of thinking in bits. Two very different feelings.

Another way of thinking in bits takes a little bit (ahem) from both these postures.

It’s the way of the performer. The artist, the curator, the improviser.

As just as computer bits have become a ubiquitous part of the underpinnings of technologies we take for granted, these bits are the foundational part of the content and experiences that move us forward. 

In standup comedy vernacular, a bit is simply a small section of a performance. It’s a few bite (see what I did there?) size ideas, jokes, stories, and observations, packaged up. Usually they’ll link together around a particular topic.

Bits are short, memorable, easy to recite and remember. They can be quick as a flash, or roll in and out like a wave. 

Sometimes they can be conjured in an instant, other times they’ll be sculpted over days, weeks, months, years. 

And just about every good bit needs a set up, some tension and suspense, cultural relevance, and a release – the pay-off, the takeaway, the breakthrough moment.

A bit can trigger a thought, a smile, a chuckle, a bout of uncontrollable emotion. They can make us think about something in the world in a completely different way. They can show us a view into something we’d never even considered before. 

A bit can be the starter, the cornerstone content, the sidebar, the closer. 

It can be interlaced with other bits, or re-referenced, called back.

A bit can evolve into the whole set. It can underpin the whole tour. 

It can even become the schtick, the signature. 

On occasion the bit makes an entire career.

But more often than not, the bit has its time in the sun before it moves aside.

It loses its lustre; it may need a modern-day remix to stay relevant and fresh; or what’s been built on top now renders it redundant. It’s lived its life. It may die a quiet, dignified death, or be celebrated and enshrined by others.

Here’s the thing: these bits aren’t just for the standup comedians of the world. They’re not just for performers and entertainers, those in the world of show business.

If we want to better communicate, connect, persuade, educate, and empower – bits are the building blocks for us to use.

It’s worth us thinking in bits.

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