Thursday 10 May 2012


I’m working with Penni Blythe-Jones from the Centre for Creative Change and as part of that work I’ve been challenged to think carefully about the words that I use. The words that I’m to consider before using are words that place a judgement on the ideas presented in the sentence. For example

I should have painted the fence white.

Who is to say that I should have done that? A better Another way to phrase this would have been “I wonder what that fence would have looked like in white?”

I got a negative response from the donkey.

Why was the response negative? Was it negative because I don’t speak or understand “donkey”? Perhaps I confused the donkey’s facial expression for “go away human” when the donkey actually meant “OH HAI!”

Abstract conversations with donkeys aside, there is something in this and I can think of two links to supporting ideas. The first comes from Edward deBono and the second is from Dan Rubin’s talk at DIBI 2012.

In Edward deBono’s book “lateral thinking” it is suggested that when generating ideas, we stay away from using the words “yes” or “no”. Instead we should use the word “po”; which is a tool that helps us move beyond the binary world of yes and no. By using “po” instead of “yes” or “no” we’re free to explore the technicolor world of infinite possibilities.

In this respect I’m being challenged to use words that don’t define the outcome, but rather act as a catalyst for possibilities.

Dan Rubin talked about something similar in his talk “All Of This Has Happened Before”. He highlighted the concept of failure within design and how the interative process depends on failure to move it forward. He stated that failure isn’t negative but quite the opposite – often it’s the point that meaningful learning and creation takes place. The problem is the word “failure” because it has a strong negative attachment in our society. Instead he suggested we use the word “experiment”. So rather than aiming to “fail”, we should aim to “experiment”. Only a small change of words, but a big change of focus.

I have to agree with this. Words are powerful vehicles for ideas and energy so being mindful of the words that I use is helping me immensely. Try it for yourself by focusing on words that promote ideas, not define them.