A Simple Turn of Phrase

As you know, if you have been reading this blog recently, we have been discussing the role of language in making change. To put it simply, words are powerful (and it is not just us old English majors who think so). However, even those of us who think about these issues regularly, too often focus on the big picture at the expense of considering the mundane, everyday language we use. While we study Obama’s speeches we forget to think about how we talk to our neighbors.

In the world of meeting facilitation there is a common tool – most people who have been a part of big meetings recently have probably heard of it – the “parking lot.” The idea is that when good (or particularly thorny) issues arise in the course of a meeting that demand follow-up or are perhaps outside the scope of the task at hand, you put them in the “parking lot” and come back to them later.

I was at a meeting recently and as the facilitator was going through the agenda, she pointed to a big piece of butcher block paper hung up at the back of the room and said that was the “bike rack.” People in the room chuckled at that, and I admit that I at first thought in a somewhat snide way “Haha, they are so clever.” However, the more I thought about that turn of phrase – replacing parking lots with bike racks – the more I cam to think of it as a brilliant, simple revision of our everyday language. Continue reading