The concept of “deep” versus “surface” structure is an interesting one! The deep structure is the meaning; what you want to convey. The surface structure is the actual configuration of words, used to express what you want to say.
In business, when you debate the specific words that should be in your mission or vision statement, you are automatically focusing on the surface structure. But if your goal is alignment and understanding, the words are not as important as the intent – the deep structure. Access to the deep structure is not intellectual. It is visceral. Instinctive!
To get to this deep level, Stephen Shapiro suggests that you and your team visit/interview clients. Talk to individuals and organizations that have been impacted by your work. Talk about “why” you are in business. Have each person on the team share personal stories. Get emotional.
The specific wording of a purpose, mission or vision statement (the surface structure) is not as important as the meaning behind the words (the deep structure). The “why” and the “what” are the deep structure. You want people to get the deep structure beyond an intellectual level. You want everyone to understand it at a visceral level.
Unfortunately most businesses document the “how” – the surface structure. And the little deep structure that is provided is given at an intellectual level. Doing this limits innovation…and true self-expression.
When organizations focus on the deep structure, improvisation begins to emerge. Innovation becomes a more natural act because everyone is clear on the “why” and “what.” From there, they can innovate the “how.” Work becomes a truer expression of each individual.
Stop investing so much energy in defining surface structure. Make sure everyone understands the deep structure. This will save time and increase the level of innovation within your organization.
Does everyone in your organization understand the deep structure?
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