Chapter 1: Conversations for Action

This essay summarizes and builds on the language action perspective first outlined in Dr. Flores’ dissertation. It describes the basis for the action workflow, describing the basic speech acts that allow people to coordinate their work through language. The view of language and action described here is considered a breakthrough for designing systems and organizations. The essay includes “The Fundamentals Elements of a Request” and “The Fundamental Elements of an Offer”.  The framework in this essay has been used by over 100 organizations around the world and is cited by many, having been read by over 30,000 individuals.

In this paper, we make some radically different claims about the nature of human language and action. We claim that people often, perhaps even usually do not have clearly specified desires and that language is not the transfer of information from one mind to the other. People don’t merely use language to communicate their desires of for the future; they create the future in language together by making commitments to each other. Conversation, then is not a prelude to action, it is it’s very essence.

This view has two principal advantages over our common understanding of language and action. First, it presents us with an elegantly simple way to observe and manage how people coordinate their actions. We will demonstrate that while people’s needs and intentions come in an infinite variety, we can distinguish an inevitable structure for the coordination of action in language that is composed of only a few primitives. Secondly viewing actions a coordination in language greatly expands our possibilities to deal with the future flexibly and creatively.

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