We use words on a daily basis to describe our thoughts. However, we tend to forget that words have the power to shape our thoughts, not merely to describe them. The power of positive vocabulary can touch the very core of an organisation and serve as a catalyst for innovation and creative dialogue within companies.

Check out: Use Language to Shape a Creative Culture






  • vernacular – the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people of a country or region
  • outdoorsman – a man who spends a lot of time outdoors or doing outdoor activities
  • naysay – say no to; deny or oppose
  • levy – impose
  • disarming – having the effect of allaying suspicion or hostility, especially through charm
  • receptive – willing to consider or accept new suggestions and ideas


Think about it

Decide whether the statements below are true or false.

  1. Language is only capable of reflecting our thought patterns.
  2. Jim Wiltens has never said “I can’t.”
  3. Business executives are more likely than teachers to the levy the fines on themselves.
  4. The shift to more positive vocabulary at Hearst Magazines did not have any far reaching implications.
  5. Using the first person when making suggestions may indicate your lack of willingness to help.


Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the correct forms of the words in CAPITAL LETTERS.

IDEO’s favorite antidote to negative ________ SPEAK patterns is the phrase “How might we…?”  It was introduced to us by Charles Warren, now salesforce.com’s senior vice president of product design, as an ________ OPTIMISM way of seeking out new ________ POSSIBLE in the world. In a matter of weeks, it went ________ VIRUS at our firm and it’s stuck ever since. In three ________ DISARM simple words, it captures much of our perspective on creative groups. The “how” suggests that ________ IMPROVE is always possible. The only question remain­ing is how we will find success. The word “might” temporarily lowers the bar a little. It allows us to consider wild or ________ PROBABILITY ideas instead of self-editing from the very ________ BEGIN, giving us more chance of a ________ BREAK. And the “we” establishes ________ OWNER of the challenge, making it clear that not only will it be a group effort, but it will be our group. Anyone who has worked with IDEO in the past decade or participated in OpenIDEO’s social innovation challenges has ________ DOUBT heard the phrase.


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The Power of Words: Transform Your Vocabulary, Transform Your Life