Empowerment & the power of dictionaries LO26278

From: Bill Harris (bill_harris@facilitatedsystems.com)
Date: 03/05/01

Replying to LO26271 --


I'm enjoying and thinking about your ideas. Thanks.

"Malcolm Burson" <mburson@mint.net> wrote:

> 1. When Bill returns to the dictionary (as we seem often to do on LO),
> and challenges Rick's re-definition of 'empowerment' since it seems
> contrary to the given sense of the word as capable of being
> granted/transacted from one to another, he seems to me to be replicating
> his own position. That is, he is choosing to accept the power of the
> dictionary's editors as able to determine his capacity to use the word.

Just to be clear, I very much support the notion expressed by Rick that
what we often call "empowerment" ("the word formerly called empowerment")
is best internally generated. I'm just questioning if "empowerment" is
the best word for it or, since it also has a definition with the opposite
denotation, if we should find a better word.

> Conversely, by moving beyond the 'official' meaning, Rick is claiming his
> own power to add to, or even change, the power of the word: that is, he
> is accepting an internal authority (empowerment, in his frame), and
> declining to be limited by the externality. I'm not sure what to do with
> this observation, I'm just intrigued by the parallelism.

I, too, am willing to push the boundaries with new language constructs.
I usually choose (subject to the limits of my skill) to do so out of a
disciplined structure to make the divergence clear and (hopefully) to
point to the import of the divergence. That is, I try to make it clear
when I'm diverging by being as careful as I can be not to diverge in
normal situations. OTOH, I realize that's a personal choice, and I have
nothing against Rick's choice.
> 2. In the grand scheme of things, we might try to place these two
> approaches on a sort of continuum, from the Red Queen (was it she?)
> saying, "words mean just what I say they mean" and thereby asserting her

Ouch! Now I'm fighting Alice in Wonderland? Now I'm really in trouble.

> In the present discussion, this would mean Bill allowing the possibility
> that there's room beyond the formal definition to explore new meaning; and

I do. I'm just adding resistance to stimulate some thought on how we best
use words.

> Seems to me that's just what the list is about. Thanks to all.

I agree. Thanks to you, too.

"Richard Holloway" <learnshops@rciti.com> wrote

> Either way, Bill's choice and Rick's choice appear both to be "empowered."
> I just prefer to use other terms to describe myself. I use "autonomous."

That's a good alternative.

> Sometimes "capricious" and "arbitrary."

I wonder if Senge could sell many seminars and books if he encouraged
managers to be capricious. :-)
> Ralph Waldo Emerson differentiated between power and self-reliance (the
> word he used that seems to mean the same as what we commonly refer to as
> "empowerment."

I like that word/word pair, too, although it also has a connotation of
doing something alone, while "empowered" sounds more interconnected to my

Bill Harris                                  3217 102nd Place SE
Facilitated Systems                          Everett, WA 98208 USA
http://facilitatedsystems.com/               phone: +1 425 337-5541

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