Edward de BonoEdward de Bono, the famous lateral thinking guru, suggests that language is really difficult to work with, and often doesn’t convey what we actually mean, or takes too long to convey complex thoughts and emotions without being misunderstood. Although I have not heard him make the connection, I think he is even more correct in his assertions as they apply to emails, blogs, texts, SMS and other text based communications. We all know how easy it is to be misunderstood, or for incorrect emotions to be read into our words (or lack of words, as the case may be). This is even further complicated by the multiplicity of languages in use in the world these days.
de Bono suggests that we work on an encyclopedia of code phrases, probably referenced by numbers, to help us deal with complex issues quite quickly. You can read about his thinking at http://www.thinkingmanagers.com/management/management-language.php and http://www.edwarddebono.com/concept4.htm.
Emoticons were a small step in this direction, helping to put some emotional content to stark words. But I like de Bono’s idea. Maybe its too tough to make a single, global encyclopedia of codes, but within a signle company it is certainly possible, and would grow as a collaborative effort. The idea would be to use a wiki, or similar technology, to collaboratively develop a set of codes that everyone can later reference.

So, for example:

  • 15: I like what you’ve said, but I don’t have time to respond to it.
  • 16: I’m not happy with what you’ve said, and need some more time to think it through, so I am not going to send you a response now.
  • 17: I don’t have time to even evaluate what you’ve said. If its really important, please respond to me and give me a reason to take some of my precious time to look at this issue in more detail and apply my mind to it.
  • 36: I am not really commited to what I’ve just written, so if you think I’m wrong, don’t get all tense, just hit reply and help me see it your way.
  • 37: I think I am right about this issue, but there’s something fuzzy about it in my mind, so if I am not seeing something then feel free to let me know.
  • 38: I’m convinced I am right about this issue, so only argue with me if you REALLY have a good reason to do so.
  • 39: I am passionate about what I have just said. I am prepared to die for it, and will fight for it. I’m not messing around or joking, so take it seriously.

And so on….
You just pop these codes at the top or bottom of emails/paragraphs, to help readers process the info.
If you’re interested in this, let me know. For our internal TmTd use, we can create a wiki to develop our own code sheet.

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