Language in Use Here LO5967
Sun, 3 Mar 1996 13:04:08 -0800

I'm new here and I've been lurking for a few days. I'm really interested
in the conversational paradigm. I'd like to respond to (and comment on)
the language in use here, across several threads. For the past 15 years I
have been consulting in organizations with an instrument that evaluates
language usage to predict and influence performance. If my comments are
not understandable, please ask for clarification and more examples.

"Learning Organization"

We are 'learning machines'. When we take the time to observe infants and
children, we will notice that a large portion of their time and energy is
spent learning. Learning how to do; learning how to talk; learning how to
interpret the world around them.

But, our experiences have taught us to disable certain of our learning
circuits. We 'learn' not to point at the strange person in the
supermarket, or we learn to not interrupt others (even when what we want
to ask is _very_ important). Each of us has reached some sort of balance
between our desire to learn and the restrictions we've developed for our
desire to learn. And, that balance point varies between us. Some of us
have a great desire to learn, and others don't care about learning.

I'm commenting here about motivation, not about the actuality. Most of us
continue to be 'learning machines' and continue to learn, but many of us
are not turned on about the idea of 'learning' (I'm talking about the
conversational paradigm, not about the behavior).

So, this brings up the question about the title, "Learning Organization".
Was this title developed by people who are personally turned on about
'learning'? Are we attracted to this because we are personally turned on
about 'learning'?

Have you ever talked with clients or prospects, and even after you give
your initial explanation, they still don't understand why it's called a
'Learning Organization'? Maybe it's because they don't have 'learning' as
a high criteria, so they cannot understand why it would be important.

Maybe we need to explore the language we use to talk about what we do.
Maybe there are ways to use language that is more universal.

We have a thread: "Willingness to Change"

'Change' implies a whole series of other words: new, different, unique,
switch, flip, and revolutionary. 'Change' is about immediately being at
the new place ("Beam me up Scotty!"). 'Change' is about contrasts.

Remember in '84, when CocaCola announced "New Coke"? It was a flop. But,
the CocaCola company had spent many million$ in blind taste tests and had
proved to themselves that people would like the flavor of the New Coke (as
I remember, it was about 67% in favor of the new flavor). It was a flop
because not very many people are turned on about 'new'. They did not test
the reaction people would have to the name, 'New Coke'.

People have much better responses to comparisons than contrasts.
Comparisons are terms like: improve, increase, reduce, better, more, less,
and evolution. These all imply some time being allotted for the trip
(remember that Bones liked the shuttle rather than the transporter).

My observations are that about 65% of the population prefers evolution,
about 15% likes both evolution and revolution, about 15% prefers
revolution, and about 5% rejects any and all changes. Please remember that
I'm talking about response to language; specifically to the word 'change'.
After CocaCola announced "New Coke" they got about 75% rejection of the
new product (that is pretty close to the 70% I would have predicted).

A simple way of checking out this information is to do a test. The next
time you have a large group of executives/managers/workers for some
seminar/workshop/course, label three parts of the room in the following

1) Everything stays the same,
2) Everything improves,
3) Everything changes.

Ask everyone to get out of their seats and go to the part of the room
where they feel most comfortable. It works best if you make 1, 2, 3 in a
straight line (along one wall or down the center of the room), so people
can arrange themselves along that line. If you are worried about making
executives move around the space, there is a lot of research that show
that we learn better when we use our large muscles.

Now, all of this is to give background to the idea that maybe some of the
resistance we experience with respect to "Willingness to Change" may be
our language causes our clients to react in ways that don't lead to our
and their stated outcomes.

In '83, I had a client that was selling a high-tech device into a
marketplace that rejected all change. The device was a hand-held computer.
The marketplace was utility companys. The application was to replace the
deck of cards the meter-reader carried to record usage (of water,
electricity, gas). My client was not selling their device.

The language of their prospects was all about 'same, in common, and
stability'. The unsuccessful sales language was about 'new, unique,
state-of-the-art'. I taught them to say, "It's the same as a deck of
cards, and it's waterproof." Immediately, my client started selling to
those they had been unsuccessful with before.

It is usually not the outcomes that are rejected, it is how we present
them. If our language does not match the thinking patterns of our clients,
we invite their rejection. If an executive 'buys' a program from us (as
internal or external consultants) for some specific outcome, we need to
work with those managers and employees in ways they do not reject.

If we are working from within, to become the 'change agent' (or is it
'improvement agent') that sparks the fire, we need to know how to be, how
to present our ideas, in such a way that it matches the present thinking
patterns. This is the way to introduce 'change' or 'improvement' so that
it is acceptable and then embraced and then implemented.

Excuse me, I need to get down off my soap box (the air is so fresh up
here, I was getting light-headed).

Please let me know your thoughts about what I have brought here. I have
other observations about our conversational paradigm, if you want more of
this kind of stuff from me, let me know. BTW, IMHO: 'Context' is the real
key to achieving improvement and change.


Rodger Bailey

Designing and Auditing Interventions

Using the LAB Profile System: - for Understanding, Predicting, and Influencing - the Thinking and Behavior - of Individuals, Organizations, and Cultures

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>