Crisis… what a word! And then… is just a word. But words are never only words, like almost everything else.

Words have meaning. Sometimes it is a very clear one. Or that’s what we tend to think. In fact, no word has a unique meaning, neither a perfect synonymous. And don’t even start talking about translations!

It is supposed that we put names to anything we see or imagine. That’s what naming is about: to create a connection between a word and an object (could be also a concept) so we can refer to it when it is not present. That seems very practical, so we can exchange information with others in a fast, easy way, and we can talk about anything that has a name without having to signal the object we are talking about. In some way, we use language to talk about absent objects.

But if the subject were so simple, humanity wouldn’t have spent centuries reflecting about it. Language is one of the main subjects of philosophy, but that’s not the way I want to go, because although that’s an impressive subject, I want to be very practical here. Change, after all, is a very practical business.

Back again to the first paragraph: words are never only words. The give then a more or less “common meaning”, which is what still permits us to have a conversation with anybody and finish it with the feeling that we really have exchanged opinions or memories with our fellow. But this “more or less common” means that some stuff not common has been added to the original message, because any of us have our own “dictionary”. On the meaning (the definition) of any word we hang other things: words that we think are related to the first one, past experiences…

One more thing: language is alive, so words are born and die, and change their significance from one place or time to another.

“Crisis”, of course, is not an exception to these rules. In origin, this word had no negative connotation. But nowadays, and after what we have lived these past years, it sounds like the Armaggedon trumpets! And, sadly, I’m almost sure that every single person has their own dictionary about extra meanings and memories.

It doesn’t matter much what we understand by Crisis, but what we do when we see one. We have to make choices. And here it comes the practical part of all this, because taking decisions means to pick up a way to go. And here is where a Design Thinking attitude could be really helpful.
One of the most powerful tools this type of though has is scalability. Scalability (also a word) has a lot of meanings. It means do something small (that can go bigger, yes, but start for a little something). It also means do something quick, because if it is small it can be done faster. And means something cheap, because little solutions don’t need big budgets! Scalability is related to that wonderful Japanese idea of kaizen.

Of course, there is a minimum, let’s call it the critical mass and anyway you cannot expect to see spectacular differences from night to day. But if you are smart enough, you will see if the path you have chosen is a good one. Remember, Design Thinking doesn’t believe in THE solution: there are plenty of them, so you always can launch another and another one. Even some of them can friendly coexist!

I want to quote this famous sentence: “If a lot of small people in a lot of small places do a lot of small things, they can change the face of the world.” Never ever underestimate the power of the little acts.

So Crisis and Change go on the same boat: it may be very helpful to start adding other memories and significance to these words. Let’s start telling us and the others new stories, brighter ones.
I am not asking you to do it in a traumatic way: you can start practicing scalability with this same subject we are dealing here, and let’s do it little by little.
Maybe you will not notice any difference but then, one day, when we hear about crisis we will not go on panic, then we will see that it works.
If crisis means to pick options it also means to have options, which to me sounds a lot like to have freedom of choice.


This is a new installment of an on-going series that collects thoughts, ideas and experiences related to storytelling for change based on an actual “work in progress” project.

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