Multiple meanings

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

An interesting experiment conducted by the egonomics team.

We took 500 managers and executives from the same organization and separated them into 125 teams with four people per team. Then we wrote down the word leadership on a whiteboard and gave them 90 seconds individually without talking to one another, to write down as many words as they could that captured what leadership meant to them. Next we asked them to compare their lists and see how many words they matched as a team. A word was only considered a match if each team member had the same word as everyone else on the team, not with just one or two team members. The winning total? One. Only one team had one match. The other 124 teams had a grand total of zero matches. Weve conducted this exercise for years in over 40 countries using different words, i.e., trust, strategy, vision, risk management, branding, customer satisfaction, and even easier words like pizza, family and dog. On a good day, a team will have one or two matches”and only on the easiest words.

I think we easily underestimate how different are the meanings we can make and how imprecise our language actually is. And if our words are not holding us together, then it seems likely that something else is. That something else is harder to locate or label, but sometimes in moments of silence I think we sense it’s there.

Another interesting entry there looks at soft power. I think there’s a connection between that sort of power and the connections that aren’t about easily captured in words.

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