Fine-Tune Your Team’s Vocabulary to Shape a Creative Culture

To  change attitudes and behaviors, it helps first to change the vernacular.   – David and Tom Kelley, IDEO

Language is the crystallization of thought. But the words we choose do more than just reflect our thought patterns—they shape them. What we say—and how we say it—can deeply affect a company’s culture. To spark innovation, it helps to influence the dialogue around new ideas.

David and Tom Kelley are the founders and partners in IDEO, one of the world’s leading innovation and design firms. According to the Kelley’s, IDEO’s favorite antidote to negative speech patterns is the phrase “How might we…?”  It was introduced to them by Charles Warren, now salesforce.com’s senior vice president of product design, as an optimistic way of seeking out new possibilities in the world. In a matter of weeks, it went viral at their firm and it’s stuck ever since. In three disarmingly simple words, it captures much of IDEO’s perspective on creative groups:

  • The “how” suggests that improvement is always possible. The only question remain­ing is how you will find success.
  • The word “mighttemporarily lowers the bar a little. It allows you to consider wild or improbable ideas instead of self-editing from the very beginning, giving you more chance of a breakthrough.
  • And the “weestablishes own­ership of the challenge, making it clear that not only will it be a group effort, but it will be our group.

Using this phrase is not just a matter of semantics. Thoughts become words, and words become deeds. If you get the language right, it affects behavior.

Defenders of the status quo often say, “We’ve always done it this way” or “Nobody does it like that.” With a series of “why” questions, an eight-year-old could disarm such defenses.

But adults sometimes forget the simple power of words.

Try fine-tuning your group’s vocabulary, and see the positive effect it has on your culture.

 

Adapted from Creative Confidence, by David and Tom Kelley.


Would you like help in fine-tuning your team’s vocabulary? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 
Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 

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