Imagine you’re in a group working on a particular issue and you’re only allowed to speak if you’re going to say something new: something you’ve never seen, read or heard before. It’s hard. And it’s hard because we’re stuck in a cycle of repeating and regurgitating what we already know. This habit means we consistently fall into the trap of perpetuating the past. It inhibits our ability to create a new future.
We can recognise old conversations because we feel safe and secure in them. We know them. We know how they go, more or less. We enjoy their familiarity. But we can also have a niggling sense they are just going through the motions. That they are hollow of meaning; the life within them having been worn away by the repeated revisiting.
These old conversations are not fundamentally wrong. They are well-intentioned and do have some use from time to time. But, they dominate our conversational landscape; all the other things we should be discussing are sidelined.
For example, we are used to talking about:
History - Our stories are so familiar they’re rehearsed. We know how to package them for our audience and we start believing our own staging - our story from one perspective.
Others - Gossip, blame finding, externalisation. We’re great at seeing where other people have failed us or not met a set of expectations we decided they should meet.
Deficiencies - We define people and situations by what they lack. Where things are going wrong. What the weakness is.
Money - Economics is the dominant language, particularly in the marketplace. We even define one another by our economic status.
Action - We want to do it now. To see things change, and quick. Sowing for a harvest we might not see doesn’t feed our desire for individualistic achievement.
Definitions - We like to hone, sculpt and define terms, titles, meanings. Working on this detail is a convenient distraction from connecting with the real work.
Reports - They’re historic. They’re inaccurate. They’re an exercise in job-saving. They replace trust and relationship. They don’t create the new. And, frankly, they’re boring.
Measurement - Statistics, data, impact. They are all backward looking and, more often than not, used to appease doubt. They are exercises in persuasion, not commitment.
Conversations that revolve around these topics are what fill our meeting rooms, conferences, media and training.
They might connect people because everyone has experience with them. They might make us feel like we’re contributing to something because everyone recognises them. But they are low in power and almost totally devoid of real meaning and the ability to restore or transform us.
Transformation isn’t an improvement: it’s a change in nature. The butterfly isn’t a significantly improved caterpillar.
The agent of transformation is not the familiar, the known or a conversation that retreads worn paths. The language of transformation speaks to the new and the unknown. It is a conversation that elevates us as we recognise the true spirit and wonder of humanity.