Published by Stephan Vanhaverbeke, on 11/04/2008
“John has left the company to pursue other business opportunities.”
“It’s necessary to streamline our processes.”
“We value flexibility in our work relationship.”
No doubt these statements conceal their real meaning in easy phrasings.
Seth Godin, the author of best selling business books and a notorios blogger, maintains an Encyclopedia on Business Cliches. Now, the interesting thing here is that any cliche is an abstraction for a phenomenon, that people believe to have occurred many times over.
In essence, we use cliches to hide things. For a list of expensive words and business cliches, go to: http://www.squidoo.com/businesscliches
So, how can we use cliches to our benefit?
Clichés are generalizations, so they leave out a lot of background and circumstantial information. We can either endorse or debunk these cliches using a simple model of language patterns.
Just ask the following questions with any of the statements above as an example:
“What specifically do you mean by ‘persue business opportunities’?”
“What specifically do you mean by ‘streamline processes’?”
“What specifically do you mean by ‘value flexibility’?”
“What does someone do with ‘business opportunities’?”
“What does someone do with ‘processes’?”
“What does someone do with ‘flexibility in a work relationship’?”
“How, specifically, will our processes be streamlined?”
“How, specifically, will flexibility be valued?”
These questions help to challenge the statement, in a way that it becomes clear what is actually meant. And once we understand the true meaning of a statement (or cliche), its context and its intent, we have more choice in our course of action.
And, would the questions above not suffice, you can push it a bit further with these questions, when it’s not clear who made the statement or who is the performer in a statement:
“Who says / thinks / beliefs that it’s necessary to streamline our processes?”
“Who will streamline our processes?”
“Who is flexible in our work relationship?”
When we use this kind of challenging to clarify well established business ideas or cliches, we can easily find the ‘Truth’. Especially when used in coaching or consulting.
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