Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?… Has it ever occurred to your, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?… The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” – George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 5
Have you read Orwell’s 1984? If you answered no, don’t feel bad. I hadn’t until recently (and I’m not quite done with it yet).
If you consider yourself a change agent, especially one working inside an organization to remake it, I encourage you to pick up a copy of 1984 and dig in.
What bearing does a 62-year-old book have on people working in modern organizations? A lot.
For the sake of this post I’ll stick to Orwell’s fascinating take on the use and destruction of language. One of my earliest posts on this blog, When One Blue Crayon Isn’t Enough, discussed the willful shrinking of language within organizations and how the loss of language kills thought. Little did I know then that Orwell had painted that topic well in 1984.
When we are challenging the orthodoxy in our organizations, we must have enough words to paint new pictures of the future. We can use words that others don’t. We can broaden the language to improve thinking. Language doesn’t have to only shrink. If you work at it, you can make your organization’s language grow, and with it the organization’s ability to think bigger and better about your future.
Whether you are implementing Lean with all its words or Theory of Constraints or even just driving change (instead of driving people), try to grow the language in your organization in 2012 and I bet you’ll win more in your changes along the way. Why not try?