APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
The Wasteland. 1922, T.S. Eliot
These are some of the best known and most powerful poetic lines in the English language. Besides their enigmatic quality and contrasting of opposites, what gives them their power is the use of verbs – breeding, mixing, stirring. These verbs and their juxtaposition with the other words are what give these lines their unforgettable, haunting quality.
Verbs are the action figures of any language. While nouns just are and adjectives and adverbs can only modify, verbs get to act, do, and make stuff happen.
In English we get to do this magical thing – verbifying nouns and adjectives. We take otherwise staid words and give them the power of verbs. This is something peculiar to the English language. It’s one aspect of the fluid nature of English – unlike other languages that have academic boards that decide on new words and correct usage – English changes, morphs, and adapts at the whim of its speakers.
We’ve long wanted to make our Thoughtexchange stakeholder engagement process step names verbs. But we never succeeded – we couldn’t find verbs that fit with what the steps did and more importantly they needed to not seem too declarative. We didn’t want them to seem like commands for your pet – come, sit, stay – would be the wrong message.
It was also important that the step names be from the participant’s point of view. Thoughtexchange allows decision leaders to gather group insight from participants to make better decisions and build trust and buy-in with participants by creating a conversation – in other words – it’s all about the participants.
Changing our product name from Thoughtstream to Thoughtexchange re-opened the step naming issues giving us another try at using verbs as step names.
This time I think we’ve got it. We found verbs that work.
Share captures the action of entering your thoughts but also conveys the ultimate point isn’t the thoughts it’s the act of sharing. It also implies this is a group activity – to share implies it’s not about you – it’s about your community. And to share is an act of vulnerability – to share is to give up part of what you have – to give a gift of your wisdom to the community.
Star is my favourite – favourite new name and favourite step. As a step it’s my favourite because it is the step that sets us apart from surveys and it’s also how we apply the crucial act of aggregation. As a name I love it because its verbifying the noun star. We get to “create” our own English word (well our own usage) – we hope to have the verbified noun “star” become as well known as the nounified verb “like”.
Our final step name Discover captures the sense of exploration, of learning or finding the expected and surprising when participants look at what they as a group have said and prioritized to the top. In many ways this is the most important step – it’s where “the answer” is revealed but it’s also how the decision leader shows they were listening.
We’ve succeeded finally – 3 verbs to define our steps each from the participant’s point of view. And with apologies to T.S. Eliot and a tip of the propeller beanie to my poem writing friends Alastair and Mike I offer you the Thoughtexchange burlesque of Mr. Eliot’s masterful work highlighting our 3 verbs.
Thoughtexchange is the engaging system, sharing
Insights by participants, starring
Priorities and wisdom, discovering
What’s important with what’s to be done.
The Steps. 2014, J.W. Firstbrook