Real Magic: The Power of Words

Part Two of Two

 

 

In Part One we explored how language and our relationship with words has limited the growth and development of organizations and human capacity. Now, we discover why expanding these things make a positive impact.

 

An organization can only reach its potential when it both embraces new words and concepts and also actively adds new phrases to its shared lexicon. Said another way: a new word is a new world, pregnant with potential.

 

Something in humanity longs for vision and a challenge. As taught in D.School (Innovation training), this adage bespeaks of how you want to tap the desire of teams to best motivate them: “If you want to build a ship, don’t assign people tasks and work, but teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

 

Given that people in groups speak the tongue of a place, they share a mindset, created with language. This mindset and its expressions convey the organization’s ethos, the propensity for taking and rewarding risk, and how adaptive a place really is.

 

As Stanford professor and professor Carol Dweck says, “I divide the world into learners and nonlearners,” in her landmark book Mindset. Learners openly embrace new concepts, new ideas, and new words. This axiom is true for individuals and groups.

 

The reason for welcoming new words into a place of business is so that its shared brain health remains vibrant. The concept of Neuroplasticity confirms that as you learn new words the neurons housed in the area of your brain that’s storing language would send electrical messengers down the axons to the cell’s center (soma) where it is then routed to a particular group of connected dendrites which would then release a chemical messenger to the new targeted group of neurons that are located next to it. New neural pathways begin to be formed to acquire and store the new language.

 

According to Dr. Lisa Christiansen, “when you are exposed to a new word, you have to make new connections among certain neurons in your brain to deal with it: some neurons in your visual cortex to recognize the spelling, others in your auditory cortex to hear the pronunciation, and still others in the associative regions of the cortex to relate the word to your existing knowledge.”

 

So much is going on in the mind, more than science understands, but we know for certain that words have real power. We also know that as humans our brains crave newness and novelty, adventure, as well as, paradoxically, security.

 

In the world of business, a place can be known by its relationship to language. Is it a learning organization or a rigid one? Is it a place open to real possibility or just one offering a controlled lip service? Is it on auto-pilot or conscious?

 

You can tell so much about an organization by its relationship to language. Be aware and insist on awareness, as ultimately, you become the words of a place by associative use.

 

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.