Word clouds have been getting a bad rap lately.

Relegated to activities done in classrooms and bad stock photography depicting buzzwords and nonsense, word clouds are just not taken seriously. What’s in a word cloud? Most would argue nothing much of value.

But let’s think about them differently. What if all of the conversations happening inside of your organization, about your organization, showed up in a word cloud. What would you see? What would you want to see?

In our work with companies around the world, we’ve discovered two things. The first is that no two companies are alike. That is for sure a pretty obvious, less than a ground-breaking statement. The second is that the results each one of these companies are producing, whether it’s revenue or employee engagement, are a product of the conversations happening inside of them.

Culture as Conversations, Conversations as Results

Let’s look again at that first statement. No two companies are the same, regardless of how similar their operations and business models are. But, what’s the difference, really? It’s not the building they work in, the chairs they sit in, or even the customers they’re servicing. Because two companies providing virtually the same value must have different people working there, it is the conversations happening between employees and the conversations about that organization among their customers that is the difference. These conversations will invariably be different. Consider that people inside of your organization are spending their entire day speaking and listening to others; answering emails, talking in the hallways, writing and reading reports, having meetings with clients or with their direct reports. What’s consistent between all of these actions? There’s speaking, listening, and a conversation is emerging.

And it is out of these conversations business gets done, results are produced, investments are made, and your position in the marketplace is determined. Business grinds to a halt through these conversations when they’re ineffective, and flourishes when they are. Either way, the very manner in which organizations exist and move emerges as this network of conversations develops. And what is the result?

Ask yourself this: What if every conversation that happened about my organization was captured and visualized in a word cloud? What would it say? What would I want it to say? What’s the disconnect?

So, what’s in a word cloud of your organization’s conversations? Pretty much everything.

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