We’ve been asked by many of our customers for periodic, no-nonsense emails with just-in-time information for managers and knowledge workers on how organizations work. This is our 14th edition and we hope you enjoy it. Past editions are available on our website.
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What We're Reading
Metaphors We Live By. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, The University of Chicago Press, 1980, 2003
Words create Worlds. That phrase is an underlying description of the concept of Appreciative Inquiry. One of the original articles that laid out the philosophy of AI was called "Journey Into Metaphor" which describes the actual journey a group of hotel managers took to look for what worked at a 5 Star hotel. The idea was to get the group out of their negative frame of thinking about their own hotel and each other. The journey was to examine the 5 Star hotel for the causes of their success and in the process perhaps begin to imagine how their own hotel could work better. This is often referred to as the 'gift of new eyes'. The whole concept of AI is based on the complex theory of social construction. Social construction means that we construct our own reality based on 'what we see'. Metaphors are the way we see. An airline may be seen in many ways such as magical mystery tour vehicle that allows you to make intimate connections with those you love or as a necessary evil you have to use to get your work done. How you frame it may very well color your view of all that occurs.
The question is which comes first; the language in which we view it, or the experience we have that causes us to choose the language we use to describe it. Linguists used to think that the thought or experience came first, the language or words, second. The latest thinking is that actually it is the words, the frame, and the metaphor that comes first and those tools structure our thoughts and experience. Because the hotel managers were taken on a journey with a specific mission to find the causes of success - what they looked for they found. This was an exercise in frame-breaking since they had been steeped in negative thinking about their own situation.
Lakoff and Johnson are both professors of linguistics and rather elegantly define metaphors like this: "The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another."(pg. 5) They argue that metaphors are the basis of our thought rather than a tool of writing. So, in the process of examing the 5 star hotel, the managers began to experience what success in their line of work looked like. Ultimately, they returned to their own hotel and turned it into the very successful hotel that adjoins the Cleveland Clinic.
Metaphors ... an Example
Because of where we are in the US presidential election cycle, you can listen carefully to the words and metaphors all the candidates use to create the image of the future they want you to choose. Based on Lakoff and Johnson's work, here are two contrasting frames of an organization (or country) to compare:
Organization as a family with leader as parent
- Leader knows best and 'all'
- Employees need to be motivated and controlled
- Employees need to be protecte
- Information is shared on a need to know basis
Organization as a community with a leader as facilitator
- The group wisdom is greater than one person's knowledge
- Employees are self motivated and disciplined
- Employees protect the organization
- Information is widely share
Which metaphor is closer to the candidate's world-view? What words do they use to describe the future? We are often better observers of other's behavior than our own so this is a great time to listen for the ratio of 'negative' metaphors and language to positive metaphors and language. A healthy society has a ratio of 2 positive to 1 negative. Here are nine positive categories to listen for:
1. Positive valuing of anything past or present
4. Noticing of other's openness to new ideas
5. Active effort to include others in a positive way
6. Mention of curiosity or excitement
7. Mention of movement towards a positive outcome
8. Mention of overcoming obstacles successfully
9. An envisioned ideal
The negative categories are essentially the opposite of the above. You can even print this off and make checkmarks of statements made by different candidates. As you practice listening to others, you will gain the competence to become aware of the metaphors you live by and the language you use to create your own reality. Becoming intentional in your choice of metaphors and language may ultimately be the best gift you can give yourself this holiday season.
effective Listening Skills Webinar in Dec., Jan. & Feb.
Listening is the first competency needed for most knowledge work and great leadership. What is your personal listening profile?
- Comprehensive, or
What are the strengths of your style? Everybody has a natural style although we need all styles to function as a good listener. As pre-work to this class, you will fill out an online assessment of Inscape's Personal Listening Profile® and receive a comprehensive report to review before the class. During the interactive class, we'll address questions and strategies to increase your ability to become a more effective listener.
Click here for more information and to enroll.
December Sale Items
In honor of this month's topic, The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry and the Building High Performance Teams Through Appreciative Inquiry PowerPoint Presentation will be 10% off this month.
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Thanks for your interest and support.
Sue Annis Hammond