Felt is not recognized;
recognized is not thematized;
thematized is not drafted;
drafted is not formulated;
formulated is not perceived;
perceived is not understood;
understood is not agreed;
agreed is not done;
done is not known.
Meaning design happens continuously – even now. This permanent cycle that allows us to interact with the world could be called consciousness cycle. It consists of four domains: perception, thinking, communication and acting. Our interfaces to the world are our senses (Perception) - 10% of it consciously. We translate those perceived stimuli into thoughts, which are linked with existing mental models and generate new thoughts (Thinking). In order to communicate those, we look for appropriate formulations, thus the correct words. Further means of expression are pictures, music, gestures, body posture, in addition, smell or gourmet creations (Communication). The next step is publication or statement, which is supported by our behavior and action (Act). This leads eventually to perceptible effects, which are perceived by senses. The cycle begins again (see illustration).
The four domains go across two axles: information character and processing level. Information is the interface to the environment and goes from sensuous perception to ‚linguistic’ communication. Processing level describes the form of dealing with the environment and extends from internal thinking to external acting. The result is a holistic, multi-sensual study of the world. Therefore designing of meaning takes care of holistically visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory influences, emotional and rational thought processes as well as behaviors and actions.
Perception of the world been made with different senses and is the interface of our information exchange with our Environment. Our eyes have the largest bandwidth of our senses (40 bits/sec.). They enable us at a dark night to still noticing a candle flame from 50 km distance. The ears work with 30 bits/sec. and make it possible to hear ticking a Clock out of over six meters distance. The kinesthetic perception (5 bits/sec.) is sufficient, in order to feel a bee wing that falls from 1cm distance on our cheek. The nose works with 1 bit/sec. and can perceive a drop perfume that is distributed in a three-room apartment. The taste nerves (1 bit/sec.) make it possible to still tasting a teaspoonful sugar dissolved into 7,5 liters of water. The descriptive realization thresholds are ideal-typical rule of thumb, which can vary individually. In all fields of life “sense professionals” can be found, which are able use certain Senses particularly sensitively - e.g. perfumer, wine connoisseurs, gourmet cooks, ceramists, musicians or photographers.
Out of 100% stimuli that are perceived by our senses however only 10% become conscious. More would make us crazy. This does not mean however that this information get lost. Quite the contrary. Perception stimuli are influence factors of our thinking - consciously and unconsciously.
Triggered by stimuli that are coming from the outside, picked up by our senses, thinking happens to a large part unconsciously. Results are thoughts, e.g. ideas, topics, concepts/models, plans or measures. A final explanation how thinking works is not available yet. However, it is mainly assumed that everyone has its own view onto the world. This results from personal angle of view, interest and expectations in this specific moment. Actual thinking is affected by associations, which are released automatically and are as individual as a fingerprint. This includes mental models that were developed in the course of life, memories, which result from past events, as well as abilities, which are continuously acquired and difficult to express as words. We realize partly results of thinking, and then we process them. The far larger parts are unconscious results, which affect uncontrolled and constitute our Intuition, i.e. the gut feeling.
The newest insights showed that even rational decisions are prepared unconsciously. Thus, thinking requires new approaches. Means during the meaning design are models, which help organizing thoughts, e.g. structured explanation, solution and system models. Results of thinking are the foundation for effective communication.
Communication covers all elements, which belong to dissemination of thoughts. Results of thinking lead to more or less target-group-oriented formulation, which, under use of an appropriate medium, is transferred. Difficulties of communication are on the one hand the fact that thereby meaning is lost or at least falsified. On the other hand, receivers define with their associations and interpretations the meaning that they incorporate in their consciousness. In the context of communication, meaning design supports the formal arrangement of messages for the respective communication channels. However, communication is not terminated with the transmission of the message. It belongs also the observation of the impact, which reaches the receivers. If necessary correcting measures are required, this enables receivers to understand the intended message as well as possible.
In the context of communication verbalization, the so-called wording plays a central Role. It should not be ignored that there are further communication channels, apart from the word. ‚A picture says more than a thousand words’ might be known by everybody. Apart from visualization, i.e. the figurative conversion of the message, the processing within other sense domains is becoming increasingly important. Examples are smells in cars or books, which transport additionally the message of the product. As consequence of communication, the impact becomes visible in action.
Action consists of all activities, which usually accompany or follow communication. This includes behavior, activities and follow-up measures. The visible behavior of the sender, in the wider surroundings of communication, should fit the message, e.g. the message „We work in an open organizational culture “requires an appropriate openness by setting an example. Accompanying activities in the course of publication, e.g. discussions, explanations and motivation measures, make the message for receivers understandable. Finally, subsequent activities, which are triggered by the communication, e.g. measures for the repositioning or future design of organizations, should fit the original messages. Contrary to thinking, acting is visible to everybody. Communication is confirmed or questioned by the power of actual doing. Actions, which do not fit to the original intention, cause expressions like „I didn’t mean that “or „how can one misunderstand in such a way“.
Meaning design of action works by the fact that meaning of saying is strengthened or not by conscious meaning design of doing. This takes place with the positioning and characterization of groups, the organization of futures as strategy development and even with the coaching. At the end, it is a matter of designing and controlling the impact of acting. ‚One cannot not communicate’ means with acting that each activity ALWAYS implies messages. To consciously steering those, improves the effect for others. Thus, the circle of consciousness closes and the cycle begins again.
The process of meaning design consists of the three main phases: idea development, communication management and business designing. In idea development feelings are consolidated into ideas, then to topics and finally into alternative concepts. Steps are: gather ideas, structure topics, and develop concepts. In communication management, context-related information is prepared, published, discussed and agreed. Steps are plan communication, publishing, explanation and motivation. Business Designing converts selected and communicated concepts. Business engineering, information management, benchmarking, project management and similar management practices are used. With business designing starts a continuous improvement cycle, in which organization, processes are adapted to business practice. Steps are businesses engineering and change management.
Ideas come to your mind surprisingly at any time. These Ideas are perceived in the mind and often in the whole body. However, even individuals have difficulties to seize these in words or pictures in order to share it with others. In a group, it is more challenging than alone, to get into a creative condition, that makes it possible to jointly formulating ideas. In this first step of idea development, creativity tools promote the common development of ideas.
A Core element of meaning design is facilitation of these processes by workshop concepts and appropriate documentation structures. The basic assumption is to make the various ideas of the participants by appropriate stimulation visible - Eureka! The idea is the basis for the next step – Thematize.
Topics result from the review of the ideas, the correspondent problems and the derived goals. The goals can be derived from the problems by looking at certain aspects (context, relations, net, associations, pro/con and ecology). Based on the problem net core problems, causes and effects are described, to transfer them into a goal net. Goal net consists of the major goal and the supporting sub-goals as well as the expected effects.
The compiled sketches are still no concepts. However, that way, ideas are already substantially more concrete and goals are defined in a first version. The core elements of the concept can already be identified. These concept alternatives are compiled in the next step - Draft.
Concepts describe alternatives for the realization of a topic. The components that are relevant for conversion are described in a structured way. The substantial elements are short description, scope, procedure, SWOT (strengths/ weaknesses and opportunities/ risks), expenditure/benefit as well as a topic evaluation. Emphasis is on a, objective description of the elements, which are put together in concept alternatives. From these the favorite is selected. The elaboration of the different perspectives leads to a more comprehensive view of the solution field. Thus, the viability increases of eventually selected alternative.
Even if pragmatic working styles arrive faster into realization, the risk increases by the lack of a comprehensive concept to have to do time-consuming adjustments in later phases. This expenditure of additional adjustments exceeds the efforts of an early concept development by far the original effort. The understanding and the benefit of this frontloading have made their rounds within technical areas. In management areas, it is still favored to choose blind actionism over a structured procedure. Which finally leads to a high degree of failed projects and continuous request for standards? In the context of meaning design, a concept that covers most of the aspects is a perfect basis for communication and business designing.
The main interest of formulating is the target-group-oriented formatting of the concept. For this purpose, the target group is identified, described and profiled as well as informing and information needs determined. Based on the determined requirements a communication plan is provided and decided. This offers an overview of all planned communication measures. These can be publications, meetings or events. The individual measure follows this schedule during the conversion.
Conscious planning of communication is often limited to internal communication departments. Meaning design makes these aspects in business and project business a tool for everybody. The formulation is the basis for publication and observation of the audience reception – Perceive.
With the publication, the realization of communication measures takes place. It is accompanied by active listening and observing. Thus, it is ensured that the planned messages are understood, desired effects obtained and possibilities for improvement early on recognized. To achieve this, surveys can be accomplished, mailboxes or on-line FAQs as well as personal discussions be arranged. Then, the insights are built directly into the current communication. This can happen several times.
Meaning design is based on mutual communication. This means that active discussions with target groups are intended. Difficulties are immediately identified by listening consciously and making corrections, before they become large problems. The learning curve rises from measure to measure steeply upward. This is reached by the fact that meanwhile the audience is understood better and better and communication measures become more accurately planned. Perceiving is the preparation for the next stage of support - Understand.
All messages have naturally a large variance of interpretation space. Mental models, memories and abilities as well as expectations and personal views of the events affect the individual view of the event. The consideration of different influence factors makes a better formatting of communication possible. This happens based on generally available information (e.g. facts, opinions and open questions), known associations (e.g. known experiences, mental models and abilities), expectations (concerning doing, results or consequences) and available situation descriptions. Here the communication objects can be examined concerning their message and effectiveness.
Meaning design goes consciously beyond the actual message and takes care of recognizable interpretations of the target group. This requires bilateral communication, which propagates constantly uniform values and messages. The understanding is the preparation for the last stage of communication management - Agree.
The substantial task of communication is to transfer the concepts to the target group, to promote acceptance, to obtaining consent and to achieve active support. Final result is positive commitment i.e. readiness to actively support the Concept. This commitment cannot be forced, but is develop by the audience. The acceptance creates a motivating framework, which makes agreement easy. Eventually a ritualized consent promotes anchorage in the mind of the people concerned.
Meaning design is happening in the head of each individual. This is facilitated by the look at the mental states of the target group. After commitment is obtained and resistances are minimized, then, and only then, should start the conversion.
Doing in the broadest sense is the scope of the business engineering. Business-related aspects are created practically, implemented and used the first time. Here cause/effect relations are described in a system model, which links the substantial influence factors and indicators with one another. In the business model, the actual business purpose is defined, e.g. deliverable concept, earning model, value-creation elements. In process maps and detailed process descriptions, business processes are documented. With business process management, the documented corporate processes are coordinated and supervised. In parallel, the organization with its role descriptions (inclusive task, authority, responsibility) is specified and assigned. The running business uses standardized project management. Doing is traditionally the area, within which consulting measures can be found.
Meaning design ensures in this phase that the right thing is done correctly. The meaning for the corporation, the area or the individual job should be understood this way. An important condition is the consistent use of the past steps of meaning design. Thus, management has the chance to make person concerned to participants. The various documentations are concisely developed according to the quality criteria of meaning design, target-group-oriented and transparent. Doing is the section of practice, where concepts are introduced for the first time. Thus the foundation for the next phase is generated - Ability.
Continuous learning, enhancement and exercise achieve mastery in an enterprise, area or as an individual. In order to get an organization, characterized by ability, appropriate definitions are required. Tools to support are governance, skill management and a pro-active change management. In governance the organizational core pillars are described, e.g. principles, guidelines, metrics. In skill management, roles and skills are integrated into so-called skill sets. The pro-active change management does not only react to problems, but enables continuous renewing, as the business (e.g. business model, concepts, and culture) becomes analyzed.
Meaning design is in this phase particularly challenged, since the results, which were developed in the past, are being questioned again. In this phase, participation of all stakeholders is crucial. In principle, this phase never ends, as long as the organization exists. New ideas can be continuously developed by meaning design and eventually in this phase built into the current business.
Meaning design is of special interest, where people fight with meaning. This begins with individuals, who would like to cope with their understanding of the world - e.g. questions of personal perception and enhancement, problems and conflicts with others. However, emphasis lies in social fabrics, groups, organizations and networks. This is mainly about alignment of different views and interests - e.g. strategy development, planning of any kind, communication projects, businesses engineering and governance.
Faith in technology and the rational development of management led to the fact that people come off badly with their individual interests. Already Michael Hammer noticed in the context of reengineering that you cannot organize over the heads of people. Small chances of implementation have the most intelligent solutions, the best projects, the most effective measures, if participants do not accept them. It is here where meaning design is applied. Concepts are better prepared, described and communicated. Communication does not happen one-way, but in dialogue. Management projects are getting this way a higher implementation probability since the concerned people become participants.
Target groups are individual, groups, organizations and networks. In the respective application target groups are defined by geography, economic sectors and the like. Concentration on target groups enables a better allocation of procedures and tools.
The Individual is one human with her/his perception, nature, communication as well as his/her thinking and doing. They are characterized by context, actions, skills and convictions as well as by identity and affiliation to a larger whole. A group consists of several people that form a unit based on common goals, values, rules, language or the like. They have a mutual cohesion and solidarity to each other. An organization is an abstract thing defined by individuals and groups with a structure and defined relationships. So in an organization are common group characteristics (e.g. common rules) as well as structures based on strict division of labor that are planned, existent for a certain time and held together by a system of formal rules. A network consists of legally independent units that on one hand are competitors that cooperate at the same time. On the other hand, a network is characterized by common goals and structures, which are challenged by polycentric, alternating power and decision authority.
Meaning design responds especially to the different mixes the mental models and cultures. The various approaches and tools adapt themselves to the respective target group and stakeholder profiles.
Benefits of meaning design are the support of the management “Doing the right thing.” Management methods for the increase of effectiveness and efficiency are available to each topic in uncountable variants. Meaning design is not in the competition with these tools, but replenishes them. What is the benefit of consulting results, if missing focus and lack of understanding develop repeatedly from lacking understanding and awkward communication. This leads to redundancies, inconsistencies, unavailable integration and unclear focus as well as general discontent and resistance. As soon as it is clear, what has to be done, the participants compensate by their understanding the frequently missing, effective procedure. From it, suffer quality, transparency as well as the employees, who are not satisfied with the results.
Meaning design supports with measures that ensure sustainably and economically the focus with common meaning and a culture that makes it possible for everybody to be successful.
Change dynamics define the types of change. This is about gradual differences of change. The four ideal dynamic ranges go from the determination of the baseline, over maintaining the current condition, continuous improvement, up to the radical change.
In the first stage, insight, everybody becomes aware of the actual status and thus the baseline for further changes created. In the second stage, balance, arising changes are compensated by purposeful readjustment, in order to maintain the current condition. Starting from the third stage, change of first order, first small changes are established. If these improvements happen continuously, this can result on a long-term basis in large changes. In the last stage of change dynamics, change of second order, radical changes take place. With this alteration, actions, deliverables or organizations are omitted. This means that they are no longer done, replaced by new or even reinvented solutions.
Meaning design is a change activity and can therefore be classified by the change dynamics. The core question is: Which degree at change should be supported by meaning design?
The operating conditions of meaning design depend on the intended change dynamics and the target group. Individuals look primarily for sense. A group looks for identity, an organization for mission and a network for joint interest. Depending upon change dynamics (see above)it is about different challenges of meaning. At the beginning on the level of insight, identity of individuals or Groups is sought. With appropriate self-confidence differences between the own view and the perception of others can be corrected on the level of balance. As soon as the change pressure becomes so strong that the first change steps are considered the level of the improvement is reached. If change pressure continues to increase and fundamental transformation becomes necessary, then on the Level of the alteration radical changes, i.e. fundamental renewal, omission of unwanted parts, replacement of old rules take place.
Meaning design requires the more effort, the more people are involved. However, not only the number of different perspectives increases complexity. In addition, the cultural characteristics of different organizations in the enterprises or different companies in a network increase the efforts.
The deliverables of meaning design extend over the entire spectrum of Consulting: resources, method, analysis and management supply. The supply of resources covers contentual consultation in the form of expertise, workforce and facilitation. Methodical consultation supplies and/or develops together with customer knowledge, procedures and structures, which are locally required. Evaluation-oriented consultation i.e. creative, contentual support offers analyses by neutral Third. Management consultation covers the variants of personality and organizational development, co-ordination, communication, conversion support and change management. Typical results are e.g. problem/goal specification, communication planning, and facilitation.
Employment of meaning design is recommended as preparing or accompanying measures besides other management measures, because consultation frequently considers superficially, if at all, the topics of the meaning design.
Content-oriented consultation offers expertise, work force and facilitation, i.e. the supply of resources. The selection can take place branch-, function-, process- specific. Dependent on the topic it concerns technology-, administration- or service-oriented offers, e.g. facilitation and documentation. Essentially capacity bottlenecks of the customer are compensated with external capacities or by consistent outsourcing.
External resources can temporarily accomplish meaning design. The designing and facilitation of meaning-oriented workshops about strategy, innovation, organizational development etc. are possible.
Methodical consultation supplies and/or develops together with the Customers skills, procedures and structures, which are locally required. It consists of development/ adjustment, rollout and application support of the methods, e.g. facilitation, strategy development, communication management. The development of method competences enables internal performance increase, reduce the loss of core competencies and make ‚aid in helping yourself’.
Meaning design is a core topic of any organization. The necessary knowledge can be developed together with specialists. The framework for such activities offers a strategy process, governance and business process management.
Evaluation-oriented consultation offers creative, contentual support by neutral third. It consists of diagnoses/ researches, recommendations/ problem solving, planning and provision of information. Results are certifications and benchmarking as well as recommendations, solutions, project plans and formatting of researches, e.g. strategy, governance or documentation reviews. In the future, it is possible to offer generally accepted certifications and branch knowledge as well as neutral evaluations and external innovation management by independent Third.
The use of the methodical approaches of meaning design for the analysis of the own communication has the potential to achieve a completely different view on the own corporation. The insights affect over a long period, even without fundamental introduction of meaning design.
Management consultation covers the variants of personality and organizational development, co-ordination, communication, implementation support and change management. Here it concerns holistic consultation, which combines contentual, methodical and evaluation-oriented deliverables with coaching. Substantial field of deployment are changes that have to be mastered by individuals, teams and organizations concerning their context, doing, abilities, convictions, roles and affiliation. This can take place in the form of workshops, events, communication measures and other change-related measures. Operations are regarded holistically as system, which resembles more a living organism than a wheelwork with computable dependence. Appropriate advisory activities can be found in the field of change management, e.g. systemic organization consultation, learning organization, individual and team coaching.
The leadership of a business, a product and the employees is in principle classical meaning design. All stakeholders expect transparency in a format that they can understand and digest. Technical implementation of the established management methods needs common understanding of the participants, in order to obtain the desired result. Half of Success is based on appropriate, goal-oriented communication. Meaning design supplies the foundation for this.
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