Talking to the Conventionals – It’s “not” wot you hear

Had coffee with The Connector, well orange juice actually. What came up was how to use “foresight-speak” in organisations. Especially given that there are a huge spectrum of responses to it when people encounter it. The Connector had one of the High Priests of Foresight talk to her work team and she saw the full gamut of human responses from interest to fear when people met foresight ideas up close and personal.

It reminded me of the work of Susan Cooke G and her research into the differences between conventionals and post-conventionals. SCG was a linguist by training and its not a surprise that she picked up a clear language trope that can give you an inkling of what language to use when you are talking to someone about Foresight. What SCG noted was that PCs tended to describe themselves in “not” language – e.g. “I don’t want to do an MBA” or “I am not someone who is satisfied with what seems to satisfy everyone else”.  What they don’t (yet) have are descriptions of what they are or what they have become. When asked about what they want or where they want to go – they tell you where they don’t want to go or what they are not.  It sounds a bit odd when you encounter it – but its perfectly reasonable given they only have a language for the conventional world and they have not developed a language for the PC world. So they describe it an themselves by using  prior categories.

So what do you say to people?  Well ask what they want, what they need. If they describe it quite clearly and specifically then talk to them the same way – foresight in the conventional language of the Achiever – options, pathways, strategy, knowledge, data.  If they purr then keep going.  If they answer in “not speak” – not the certainty of the Achiever but the searching of the Individualist – discovery, emergence, uncovering, going to depth – and listen for the purr.

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