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I ran into this blog by Dave Snowden and I was absolutely impressed with the insights he introduces on communication being a double edged sword: illuminating on one hand, or having the potential to be used to coerce. He proposes that context-devoid slogans found on corporate posters and value statements don’t serve any educational or inspirational purpose, and rather quite the opposite: they often become tools for coercion driving a compliance organizational culture.

In line with the most forward facing complex-adaptive thinking, Snowden contends that unlike dry posters, stories and narratives are context-full, allowing the message just the right amount of “necessary ambiguity” (what a wonderful concept!) so it can be internalized and thereby embraced by the receiving individual. This creates resonance rather than compliance. Compliance is suited for a mechanistic view of the social construct, but resonance is what drives a participatory culture. In a way, this also makes me think of the communist years, when language had practically been turned into a veritable weapon of control and mass manipulation.

Fortunately, just like in communism, in big corporations individuals remain intelligent human beings and adapt by learning to ignore all the useless slogans.

Thank you Dave for helping me rationalize my intuitive repulsion toward meaningless catchphrases.