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Lyrics and Language

The following quote uses the analogy of a song.

In this post, I'd like to riff on it.

Great communication is like a song. It isn’t enough to hear it once. You don’t know the melody until you hear it multiple times. You don’t know the chorus by heart until you’ve repeated it many times. - Adam Grant

There's a wonderful insight here, and the same insight explains why change is so hard.

The insight that Adam Grant is sharing is a simple one: repetition works.

Think of a song that you know ALL the lyrics to.

I mean all of them. The song where those who think they know the lyrics are actually singing some kind of "sounds like this" lyrics, but you know the real lyrics.

I won't blame you if the song just started playing in your head as you read this.

Allow me to illustrate a parallel that comes up at work.

Thing of a term that you say at work.

Not a saying per se, but something that you would consider to be insider language—those who work with you know what you're talking about.

I'll use an example from my own life: The term "OKRs."

This stands for Objectives and Key Results.

"What are your OKRs?"

"Have you set your OKRs?"

"Yup, that's an OKR for our team."

"Let's review our OKRs."

You get it.

After a while, you've said the term so many times that it's basically become the equivalent of lyrics to that song you were singing a few seconds ago.

Sidenote: If you really want something to stick at work, talk about it. Often. Don't bother writing it in some important place and fool yourself into thinking that'll work. Spoken word trumps written word.

So now you've got the equivalent of a song at work. Perhaps you even have a few of them.

Enter the reason why change is so hard.

Let's suppose at my place of work, we've decided to adopt a new method and do away with OKRs.

The equivalent of this would be taking the lyrics to that song you know by heart and changing them completely, but only changing the lyrics. Everything else about the song stays the same.

This is hard. You have known that song for so long! You've heard it many times.

Now you have to relearn the lyrics from the scratch.

Each time the song comes on you have to fight the urge to sing the old lyrics.

Luckily, we have Adam Grant's insight: repetition works.

dark red background with three white musical notes in the middle

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