What Is Clean Language Like?

What is Clean Language like? For once, I’m not asking for a metaphor – at least, not in the usual meaning of the word.

Instead, I’m wondering about what’s similar to Clean Language, after a friend started trying to map out the landscape of tools in common use for team and organisational development.

As a process for facilitating groups, Clean Language is a way of helping team members to show up more fully, and to self-actualise within a team.

In that regard, it sits alongside things like:

  • Open Space Technology
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Thinking Environments (Nancy Kline)
  • Creative Gatherings
  • Lean Coffee
  • Constellations
  • L*GO Serious Play
  • Theory U (Otto Scharmer)
  • Crucial Conversations
  • Non Violent Communication
  • The Art of Hosting
  • Sociocracy
  • Liberating Structures

That list also includes a number of approaches which explicitly use metaphor, space and/or embodiment, and which come from similar personal development roots to Clean Language.

It strikes me that it’s harder to find one-to-one coaching processes that seem “like” Clean Language. Constellations is probably the closest, since it combines metaphor, space, embodiment and non-directivity (is that a word?) But the two processes are still, to my mind, quite distinct.

  • What do you think? If you know Clean Language, what do you think is similar? Are you baffled by my comparisons above? And if you haven’t yet experienced Clean Language, feel free to ask questions below!

7 thoughts on “What Is Clean Language Like?”

  1. I’d add Solution Focus and Positive Deviance to the list, both strength-based change approaches.
    I’d also add AI. It’s not clean per se as it deliberately chooses to use extremely positive language, but then, it’s only to make the positive inner world of people get out.

  2. David Stuart

    And with all these different methods for team and organisational building – and I’m sure there are others – if you are a person responsible for commissioning a consultant to help you improve your team results, how do you select which methodology to go with?

  3. Good question! How would you know which is the most appropriate for your situation?

  4. David Stuart

    Judy, this is a big question and not easily answered in a comments section.

    ‘Horses for courses’ comes to mind.

    Howveer, at a high level, if I were someone wanting to improve team performance I would:
    – write a crystal clear brief – define the problem and what I’d like to have happen
    – consider the company culture because if the culture is rotten then no amount of team building will help
    – same would go for the approach to recruiting
    – see if there were small, simple things we could do that could make a big difference
    – if we needed to go outside the company, I would research who else has got good teams, what did they do and who did they engage.

    As for all the different change processes listed in your article, even though I have an interest in this subject, I only have heard of a handful of the them and probably wouldn’t want to spend the time to understand the in and outs of each one.

    As with a lot of life it’s often not about the tools but the way you use them. The good photographer doesn’t rely on the camera but on the eye.

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