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13 Dec 2010

Standardization: A Form of Thought Control

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Vanilla Words-Vanilla Thinking

Expressing our thoughts is challenging especially when we don’t know the words to do so. Therefore, restricting our vocabulary will tend to restrict our thoughts. As a result, we will experience more difficulty influencing others and solving problems. It’s important for us to expand our vocabularies, to allow stylistic differences and to exercise our minds by defining the fine differences between synonyms rather than assume they are the same (i.e. truth vs. clarity, influence vs. control, power vs. authority).

George Orwell’s book 1984 details this thought control through a state working feverishly to restrict the words of its citizenry. By eliminating words like “freedom” and “revolution,” citizens would have difficulty thinking of these concepts.

We don’t have an Orwellian state; however, business and company cultures tend toward self-censorship because they need standardization for efficiencies. Standardization often requires standardized communication practices, as exemplified in warfare and football. They save time.

I call such words “vanilla” words. They tend to be:

  • Inoffensive to the group (politically correct)
  • Repeatedly used to enforce positivity and optimism (i.e. great, awesome, super)
  • Technically or narrowly defined
  • Promoting cost-control, speed and efficiencies
  • Easily understood (no dictionary needed)
  • Buzz words, phrases and acronyms
  • Void of emotionalism and feeling (i.e. business reports and legal documents)
  • Emphasizing groups over the individual (i.e. We versus I, They versus He/She)

Basically, vanilla words encourage us to look at our businesses in vanilla terms. We cannot arrive at new flavors by using words that encourage a vanilla filter. The cost is employees who can only think inside a vanilla box.

Series NavigationVanilla Words and Uncreative Personalities, Cultures >>

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