The Impact of Programming Language on Thoughts and Behaviors in the Workplace

Linguistic Relativity is the idea that language shapes the way we think. In programming, the imperative style is widely used in which instructions are given to the computer. The immersion in imperative communication via programming languages raises the question of whether this influences the programmer’s thinking and contributes to the preservation of command-and-control behavior in organisations. The use of “should” in modern Behavior Driven Development (BDD) is an example of rampant imperativism in language.

E-Prime is a modified form English proposed by D. David Bourland to reduce misunderstandings and conflicts. The idea of modifying language to improve thinking is not new.

The concept of a Nonviolent Programming language based on the Four Steps of Nonviolent Communication is an intriguing one. It raises the question of what a Nonviolent Programming language would look like and feel like to use and whether it would have knock-on advantages for Nonviolent BDD. If Gandhi, for example, had been a programmer instead of a lawyer, what would his code have looked like? If he had been immersed in programming languages for 40 hours a week, would he have held the same views on non-violence?

Adopting a Nonviolent Programming language and style could have positive implications for our personal and work-related communication, as seen through the lens of Linguistic Relativity. Spending 40 hours a week on Nonviolent Programming could contribute to the health and well-being of our human dialogues and personal interactions.

See also: Nonviolent Programming

Quintessential Morons

Quintessential morons are not those folks with a shortfall in intellect, but those folks with a shortfall in awareness of the limitations and boundaries of their personal world view.

The latter group are not open to changing themselves because they remain unaware of the need for, and benefits to themselves and others of, personal change.

The world is stuffed full of quintessential morons.

Chances are, you’re one too.

– Bob

The Way The Play Plays

Play is for adults, too

John Seddon regularly uses the phrase “the way the work works” in referring to the “system” or “processes” that actually get followed within organisations. In contrast to the way “processes” or “the system” describe how the work should work (but rarely bears any relation).

For organisations such as The Quintessential Group, where play’s the thing, “work” has become a term, and an idea, that no longer has much relevance. The phrase “the way the work works” serves as one more reinforcement of that outmoded idea.

So we’ve chosen to replace the phrase “the way the work works” with the phrase “the way the play plays”. Which, although poorer grammar, helps us train ourselves to expunge the word – and idea – of “work” from our consciousness.

See also: POSIWID.

– Bob

Further Reading

Schrage, M. (2008). Serious Play: How The World’s Best Companies Simulate To Innovate.  Harvard Business School Press.

A Key to Culture Change

A long time ago (2012) I wrote

‘Whorfianism of the third kind’ proposes that language is ‘a key to culture’

(You might also like to read the full post wherein this appeared).

Which is to propose that the language we use, and the vocabulary we possess, influences and constrains the way we think. That if we lack words for certain concepts, then these concepts are inaccessible to and inexpressible by us.

Which in turn suggests that culture change, involving as it does discovering and adopting new terms, concepts, and the words to describe and label them, necessitates we acquire new language and new vocabulary.

I suspect Clean Language also has some relevance and utility here.

How does the phenomenon of Linguistic Relativity relate to your own experiences?

– Bob



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