Transitions Are An Important Part

Again, it has been longer than I would like since my last blog entry; this is primarily due to my underestimating the amount of time that I would be committing to working on my degree.  Hopefully that will change once I complete the shortened winter semester, and get into the regular spring semester.  I will certainly be trying to get at least one entry a week here, and more if I can.  Thanks to those that continue to stop in!

One of the major school projects I just finished was an essay for my cultural anthropology class on the state of transition, or “liminality”, as shown through the comparison of burial rituals between three different cultures (I chose the Mongols, Kiribati, and Khasi).  While my paper was focused on the concept of transition as related to death and burial ceremonies, I think there are some very important conclusions that we can draw.

Overall, the concept of liminality is the transition phase just before a change.  This is true in coming of age ceremonies, weddings, birthdays, graduations, etc.  The purpose of these events is to show a definite change from what once was, to what will be.  Knowing that this happens in so many situations, I have to wonder why we don’t pay more attention to the transition phase in business.  It is a natural process that needs to happen, and can be seen around the world in many cultures and many forms, but for whatever reason when we get into business we tend to go against what is natural instead of using it to help us and our people be more successful.

The next time you are working to figure out how to motivate and engage your employees, ask yourself what natural transitions you have built-in to your processes.  Do you have levels of employment at each level to create goals and small wins, and do you celebrate those transitions?  (Both of these steps are necessary for a truly successful process.)  What lets people know that a project is at the end, or has completed?  How do you transition people from individual contributor to leader/manager?  If you have these processes, how do you celebrate these transitions?  Do you make it special and recognized?  People thrive on natural processes like this, and I truly believe that if you make these changes you will see improvements in the excitement, enthusiasm, and success of your business.

It may not be the first thing that we think of but we need to be aware of the natural tendencies of the crazy creature that is Homo sapien, and utilize those natural tendencies instead of fighting them.

What is your action word?

Right now, my literary addiction is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell.  This is the second book that I have read by him, the first being “Blink!”, and I can’t say enough about how insightful and though provoking his works are.  I’m not quite half-way through “The Tipping Point”, and have already taken close to four pages of notes on ideas and thoughts that have been inspired by the book, so I thought I would share some here.

First I suppose I should clarify the purpose of the book for those that may not have read it.  The premise behind the book is that at any moment an epidemic can happen, and there are many components to understanding how and why.  It would seem that there is an underlying implication that through this knowledge, one can potentially instigate an epidemic of their own (hopefully for positive purposes of course) in business, communication, etc.

In the beginning of the book, a powerful example is given about an action word that actually initiates and almost inexplicably forces someone to take action; the word is yawn.  As Malcolm explains, just typing or writing the word can make you do it.  The same can be said for reading the word yawn, either to yourself or out loud.  When you hear someone yawn, say the word yawn, or see them yawn it most likely will actually cause you to yawn.  Just as you have been reading this paragraph, have you yawned yet?  Have you felt tired?  Amazing how powerful that one little word is, isn’t it?

With that thought in mind, I can’t help but feel as though this is applicable in many business, academic, and political situations.  I would venture to say that I am not the only one who has sat in a meeting, or on a conference call, or in some other gathering where the statement is made, “We need to get people to take action on this,” or the question asked, “How do we get forward motion with this?”  Is it possible that one word could really be powerful enough to create, spark, infect, and grow action?  If the word “yawn” is powerful enough to evoke an action simply by reading, writing, speaking, or hearing it, what other words could do the same in a different context?  Is it a real word, or one that is made-up?  I have to believe that there are other words out there that can initiate an epidemic within an organization or situation.

Certainly some words can cause you to cringe, or salivate, or smile, or emote in some other fashion, so it would stand that there are other words that could be that powerful.  I’m sure this was, in some fashion, the premise behind the using the word “synergize” or “synergistic”.  There is a real word as a foundation (“Synergetic” is actually a word, and yes, I had to check it with Merriam-Websters!), and the meaning of the real word is similar to the faux word, but the feeling expected from the faux word is obviously expected to be much more powerful.  Unfortunately, I would guess that I’m not alone in the feeling that it became such a “buzz word” that most people almost sneer in disgust at the very mention of it.  But is there another word out there that can actually work to accomplish the end goal of generating action?

Unfortunately I don’t have an answer to this question, but I think it’s certainly food for thought, and I believe that in each interaction where the question, “How do we get people to take action on this” comes up this should be a part of the conversation.  Searching for a word or even a phrase that could ignite an epidemic of action and production could be the difference in the success or failure of your next initiative.

So what are your thoughts?  What is your action word or phrase that is going to make the difference?