Not so long ago I used to joke with colleagues that we were going to so many meetings that it was almost impossible to work.
Like many, I was blind to the fact that our conversations during the meetings were in fact the most important part of our work.
Words have the Power of Actions
Co-ordinating our actions and language were most of the work at the time and continue to be today. Having more meetings were not a way to avoid the manual work that should be done, but a way to address the need for more coordination of actions, need of conversational work.
It is common to hear people say: enough words, time for action. On the other hand, words have the power to be valid actions and can change things.
Imagine the power of a country’s declaration of independence or a multi-million business proposal. They both have to be carried forward by changing, respectively, the political and economical systems from which they depend, but it all starts with the act of speech.
So although we can agree and have been claiming that “in the beginning was the deed”, we are also exploring words as actions and generators of possibilities.
More and more we are witnessing working relations that depend upon conversational skills. But there is more to it – the process of generating new possibilities in the workplace are also happening everywhere you find people communicating.
Words Changing our Social Systems
If we consider our created social systems as being systems constituted by communications, the words and utterances that we produce within our systems are both a re-creation of the system structure and the open door for creation of new possibilities.
It works paradoxically – we choose the words we want to use in order to define a system that is less complex that the environment that contains it. That simplifies complexity on one hand, but also makes things more complex to deal with as we are never know if our choice has included all the relevant elements or if it can respond to all environment’s perturbations.
There is no way around it. We can have creative conversations within the systems, but as they are bound by the communications within the system itself, the relevant changes in structure are more about adaptations than human agency.
That implies saying that systems of society merely respond to requests from its environment to change. Change is constant but it is less connected to our decisions and choices and more to what is needed in order to the system to replicate itself.
Poetic Communications may be the way around it
I’ve been always a fan of informal conversations to contemplate my relationship with others and the world of others.
This is not usually the type of conversation that you have in the workplace when you are searching for a solution to a problem or a new design of a product. Not also the type you necessarily find during Friday’s happy hour.
It has intentionality and freedom in this one and I will address it by ‘poetic communications’.
Poetic communications are not part of the subsystems of society. They do not solve business problems or issues of law; they do not grant you a diploma either. Although they are still bound by the way we communicate, they hold less constraints in the directions they can unfold because they are not so closely connected to a need for a subsystem to re-produce itself.
Poetic communications are the way to both learning and social change.
Creating Spaces for Poetic Communications
I believe that poetic communications are the spaces and conversations we should be hosting so we can learn by listening to each other and the world. There is always the job of translating this new language to the subsystems of society, but we are way more skilled on those kind of conversations.
There is no manual for poetic communications, but here are the characteristics that come to mind when I think of them:
The call for conversation should come from listening and curiosity, a result of putting our ears to the ground together with a spark of “I wonder…”;
The invitation should have a question on its core and go out to the curious community of the world;
Time should be plenty, perhaps a good weekend where you sleep twice. It works like slow food: better if you buy the ingredients, cook together and finish with Sunday lunch;
No one is selling anything and no certificate is given. Learning is a collective responsibility and people take and offer what they have at hand;
The intentionality of shared learning is the most valuable outcome, but other representations can communicate the poetry to the world;