Language that gets you moving

In the world of change management, a lot of new words are created. This makes sense: it’s very hard to break patterns if you are stuck in old words and language. Sometimes these efforts result in typical management speak. Especially when used in non-English contexts, words like ‘deep-dive’, ‘high-level learnings’ and ‘leverage’ give employees a sense of what is meant, at best. But what exactly makes a learning high-level? Confusing.
Moreover, a lot of management language doesn’t seem to bring anything truly new to the table. It’s just another word, replacing more boring words. Leaving the inspired individual disenchanted and new realities untouched, while the reasonable concreteness of boredom is flushed away.
My advice for new words: keep them simple and concrete and make sure it’s not just a new word, but also a new concept you’re bringing to the table. Make sure the word is a tool for people to explore new grounds. I give you three examples of new words I’ve launched and what they are supposed to do.

Idea killer

If you want to innovate and develop yourself and your employees, you need lots of ideas to pick from. To get those fresh ideas to the table, colleagues and supervisors (not to forget you yourself as well) need to postpone judgement. The best way NOT to do that is by using idea killers like ‘yes but’, ‘has been tried before’, ‘too difficult’… Identifying these concepts as idea killers and handing out red cards (in this case the tool has great potential for embodiment) the minute someone uses them, helps to create space for true brainstorming. The identification of idea killers, entails the power to reduce resistance.

NaNo Action

In the Western world, we are very good at organizing meetings. As a result, relatively few real actions take place. Does this mean we should stop making plans? No. My proposal is: set up a rough plan and then take ‘nano actions’. A nano action serves as a tool to realise part of you plan with very little means. Reserve an hour and ten euros and see what you can do. No writing out the details, no hearing what other people think about it: testing. Small steps in the right direction can make a huge difference.


There is a good chance that you will end up with a nearling: an outcome that has been undertaken with the right intentions, but is not yet having the right effect. The thing is: people should be proud of those efforts. They imply you have tried something. When shared, nearlings have great potential to facilitate learning from each other and embrace trial. I think that's what companies need now. There are in fact organisations considering integrating the nearling as part of their evaluation processes.

Idea killers, NaNo actions and nearlings are more than words. They imply an action. They get people – and organisations – in motion. Change is much more pleasant and effective if we choose a language that serves us.

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