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7th September 2003

12 Complementary Languages for Sustainable Governance

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This is the development of a theme articulated in a earlier paper:
Four Complementary Languages Required for Global Governance (1998)


12 Complementary Languages for Sustainable Governance
12 Complementary Languages for Sustainable Governance

The above diagram interrelates 12 complementary "languages" that may prove to be essential for sustainable governance. The languages are named using caricatural abbreviations -- partly for mnemonic purposes. The selection of "languages", and the names given to them, are extremely tentative. The purpose is to evoke discussion of the different conceptual modes in which governance of any kind might be discussed. The diagram benefitted from insights of Nadia McLaren.

As described in the earlier paper (Four Complementary Languages Required for Global Governance, 1998), the rationale for this kind of approach to strategic and management thinking and "operacy" has been notably developed bt Edward de Bono (Six Thinking Hats, 1987); Six Action Shoes, 1991; and The Six Value Medals, 2005).

Focus of languages

The 12 languages -- grouped in pairs, positioned across the circle above -- may therefore be tentatively understood as follows:

Four-fold systems have long been a feature of psychometric testing of individuals -- based on the work of Jung, Myers-Briggs and Hermann. Most recently attention has been given by the Cognosis Consulting Group to a "Four Worlds" framework extending such approaches, and applying them to the "personality" of organizations (see Alex Benady. Organisations, too, can be put on the couch. Financial Times, 20 June 2003). This recognizes the critical importance of the "culture" of an organization -- none of which is considered better than another, although possibly one may be better suited to a particular style of challenges.

Mediating role of languages

Whereas each of the paired languages above is essentially in opposition with the other -- to the point of being incommensurable -- this relationship is mediated by a second pair. The second pair is orthogonal to the first in the diagram. Thus:

Multi-lingual roles

The previous section stresses the mediating relationships to various incommensurable ("bilingual") language pairs. The 12 languages may be grouped differently -- into four sets of three languages -- to avoid such challenging dynamics. Each such multi-lingual group (eg Wizzy-Leggy-Bizzy) is indicative of a particular style of action open to those who can master them as a set.

It may also be useful to explore situations in which the languages of a set are not equally mastered by someone who nevertheless has some competence in all three languages in the set. Within each set, three possibilities are therefore indicated below by changing the order to suggest that the first is a dominant or favoured language and the last is one in which competence is diminished (perhaps seriously so). The term by which the set as a whole is tentatively named may then be understood generically. The attribution of exemplars is also very tentative.


Anthony Judge:

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