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Language

The extent to which change has been baked in can be determined by the shift in people's language. The quality consultant will hear a greater use of words like customer needs, cost of quality or agreed standards. The market strategist will hear words like customer segmentation, value chain or brand development. In changing the language, you will help ensure continuance of change. Although this is not guaranteed in all contexts, it does offer a good indication as to the effectiveness of the transformation. Just listen to the way that children will adopt the language of their favourite cartoon character. The ability to mimic and copy the latest buzzword offers the child membership of a select band of friends and peers.

This power of language to influence how people behave should never be underestimated. We often think that language is simply a way of describing something to another person. However, communication is a magical process that takes the ideas and schematic models from one person's mind and creates them in someone else's. By the use of words, patterns, inflections and sounds an individual builds something new and original in someone else's mind when they speak. So as an idea is socialized through an organization, it is not the case that it is being passed from one person to another like a relay race. At each juncture, the idea is reborn and re-created in another person's mind. Each time this creation takes place, it will be subject to amplification, distortion and attenuation. Like the game of Chinese whispers, the language element of the socialization process can have a significant impact on the way in which knowledge is received and changed behaviours are eventually delivered.


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