Words into action

April 14th, 2008

I’ve been pondering this question for a while and would like your thoughts. Here’s some scenarios:

#1: There’s a lot of commentry around regarding the forthcoming 2020 Summit and how the ideas will translate into action

#2: Comment heard on the radio: ‘It’s all very well to talk, but what are we going to do about it?’

#3: Recent workshop designed to provide information and dialogue – frustration that no specific follow-up actions emerged.

My question is:What is the value of talk?My thoughts are that there isn’t enough talk. Talk and conversation and discussion and dialogue simply to explore and wander through ideas, taste them, throw them around, spark new ideas, keep the synapses active, and inspire. The need to come up with actions, next steps etc seems to devalue talk – that talking isn’t inherently valuable, but a means to an end.

And I guess inherent in this is responsibility. Actions etc tend to default to what ‘someone else needs to do about it’. Isn’t it enough to have an interesting conversation that translates into new personal knowledge, maybe understanding, that may, or may not, translate intoย action. After all, we are who we are because of all the influences built up over our lives. Isn’t personal responsibility enough?

8 Comments so far

  1. Chris Corrigan on April 14, 2008 2:24 pm

    I think it’s funny when people demand more action and less talk. I always like to have a conversation with them about what they mean by action. And if it’s true that people are asking for other people to do stuff for them, I try to point out that you better have a very good conversation about what you want to see because if you aren’t tying responsibility to your passion, the chances of people doing what you want them to do are kind of slim.

    At any rate, start asking people what they mean by action and I think you’ll see that it actually means more talk, but talk conducted in a different way.

  2. Andrew Rixon on April 14, 2008 5:41 pm

    Having a chat with Sash whilst walking George along the beach tonight brought an interesting perspective.

    If you take the social constructionist view, then there is no action without talk, because talk IS action! ๐Ÿ™‚

    We talk the world into being.

    Or, as Sash has just said. A good example of speech acts is whats known as ‘performatives’. Where the action is performed by the talk. For example “I apologise” constitutes an apology or “I thee wed” sees the beginning of life long happiness? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Viv McWaters on April 14, 2008 9:06 pm

    i think this is all pointing to recapturing the importance of conversation. That it’s a legitimate use of time – even, maybe especially, at work. I’m not sure I know what a social constructionist view is – but I like the premise that talk IS action.

  4. Johnnie Moore on April 14, 2008 10:35 pm

    I’m very familiar with people demanding more action and less talk. But I’ve never seen that demand performed in mime.

    If we try to strip this rhetoric to something specific,usually the person either (a) wants something specific, from someone else, but isn’t going to take the risk of asking for it or (b) doesn’t really know what to do and actually needs a good conversation to help figure it out.

  5. Chris Corrigan on April 15, 2008 2:56 am

    Right. We’re all in agreement then.

    So what the hell are we going to do about it?


  6. Viv McWaters on April 15, 2008 8:49 am

    ha ha Chris

  7. Eva Schiffer on April 18, 2008 4:52 pm

    Thanks for getting me thinking!
    When doing research and living in Ghana, I learned more about the value of talk than I ever asked for ๐Ÿ™‚
    Arriving with my typical German attitude of “Shall we do A or B” I had to realize that without a lot of meandering talk, people might agree on A or B but you shouldn’t hope that anything would ever get done. The most difficult to adapt to was that at meetings, everyone who agreed with the person speaking would get up afterwards and in great detail repeat what the first person had just said – sometimes in the same words. While I would see it as wasting time with idle talk, it seemed to be building the stable foundation for collaborative action.
    After some time I realized that it was the meandering talk (rather than closed ended questions) that provided me with the understanding I needed to live and work comfortably in this society, because often I didn’t even know what I needed to know – so I couldn’t directly ask for it. But by giving time for idle talk with various people the things I needed to know would come to me…

  8. Martin Butcher on April 24, 2008 8:51 pm

    In the design professions there is quite a lot of dialogue about how there is never enough budget or time for ‘proper design’. In my experience the design process is a form of dialogue to find the optimum solution. Our culture of action does not place a large value on design because it is expensive. It is cheaper to just make multiple copies of the same thing, because it is the number of things made that is valued. However I am also not a big fan of cultures that place huge emphasis on talk and ‘relationships’. IMO It’s the culture of generative change that is responsible for longer life spans and quality of life, and that means doing stuff. Thus IMO it is the talking that leads to making a decision that is most valuable. Whether that is self talk or collaborative talk. One of the great aspects of modern digital technology is that it allows the Plan-Do-Check cycle occur really quickly and easily. I’ve had quite a few goes to write this piece, but it would have been considerably more work if I’d had to carve it all in stone, or write and re-write it with pen and ink. Talk is good. Talk with purpose and intent to play around and tease out meaning is fantastic. Martin.

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