Congregation 2019 on “Community”
Did it change our thinking?
(The answer is yes. Read more to find out how…)
Hello I’m Alastair from Linguabrand.
During Congregation 2019 Eoin and I came up with the idea of testing whether people gathering to talk makes any difference to our collective thinking. That was brave of Eoin don’t you think? Imagine if he’s had people turning up each year and everyone goes back thinking the same as when they arrived…
At Linguabrand we specialise in deep listening. We’re interested in what language says about the way people are thinking and feeling more than just the things they’re talking about. The problem is that people aren’t very good listeners at the best of times. And even trained discourse analysts, working very slowly, miss most of the deeper psychological content. That’s why we invented Bob.
Bob is our own deep-listening robot. He reads 120x faster than humans and he surfaces key psychological indicators. He’s totally consistent and he benchmarks it all, too. So, you know his metrics are statistically significant. But, of course, his work only makes sense when it’s interpreted by humans. He does things we can’t; leaving us to focus on what we do best – using our imaginations and creativity.
Eoin asked people to write their thoughts on community after the event. We’ve combined those responses into a single dataset. Then we took the pre-event blogs of the same people, and put them into a single dataset.
So, we have a BEFORE blog-based measure of 21,241 words (that’s the same as The Merchant of Venice). And an AFTER response-based measure of 8,197 words (that’s an hour-long documentary).
Let’s listen to what Bob discovered…
We changed what we were talking about
There were only three ideas that remained at the forefront of our thinking. ‘Needs’ (including what needs to happen), sharing and groups. ‘Sharing’ rose in importance.
‘People’ and ‘ideas’. ‘Differences’ and ‘place’… these became more important than ‘technology’, ‘time’ and ‘work’. I’m taking a stab that Congregation got us more human-focused. What’s your take on these two lists?
Interestingly, although we started to talk more about ‘others’ our focus remained very largely egotistical. Both sets of writing are centred around ourselves – ‘me’, ‘my’, ‘I’ and ‘mine’ is nearly 3x higher than we’d expect to hear both BEFORE and AFTER. And empathy – reference to others like ‘her’, ‘him’, ‘they’ or ‘their’– are both 30% lower than we’d expect to hear. But in both cases we were asked to provide our opinions, and many wrote of their own experiences, so perhaps it’s not surprising.
Our levels of confidence and humility didn’t change significantly. So, it’s unlikely we experienced big redefining moments, as a group at least.
We became 77% more emotionally engaged
Sensory language levels are a really good proxy for emotional engagement. The more sensory-based language we use the more emotionally engaged we are. Bob picks this up in social media and company culture analysis all the time.
The primary sense used in these two sets of writing is auditory. We wrote about ‘talking’ and ‘listening’ and ‘saying’ and so on.
BEFORE Congregation our sensory level was only 96% the level we’d expect to hear.
But AFTER the event it zipped up to 170%. That’s a leap of 77%.
We did a lot of thinking. Most of it trying to be logical and rational.
Bob measures three thinking styles: reasoning, quant and action. We were mostly offering knowledge, pointing out discrepancies and drawing conclusions. These are the elements of logical reasoning. Logic was 2.5x the benchmark BEFORE and 2.7x AFTER.
But we also did some good quant thinking (‘more’, ‘less’ etc). And AFTER we also became more action-orientated – by 18.4%, to be precise
Our approach to time remained focused on the present
Although many people shared stories of the past, use of the past tense was underweight. And maybe we should have been focusing on the future? But we weren’t. The future was not significantly weighted and actually fell away slightly AFTER the event.
The present tense was upweighted by 69% BEFORE and 70% AFTER. So, our approach towards time was absolutely consistently on the here and now.
What does that mean? I’m not sure. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Our attitudes towards change became less radical
Now here’s an interesting thing. We didn’t leave filled with a revolutionary fervour for radical change.
Bear in mind that Evolutionary change (that’s where things get better incrementally) is the preferred form of change for everyone, including us writing about community.
But BEFORE, our attitudes were about average on Tradition and +80% on Revolution. Revolutionary change is advocating the radical, the reinvention or transformation. Our blogs had a significant element of advocating radical change.
AFTER there was a shift. We became +31% on Tradition. That’s things like heritage, history and roots. And Revolution fell to just +17% over the benchmark.
Talking together made our opinions more traditional and less radical than as individuals before the event.
That doesn’t mean we’re not advocating change. But the nature of that change? Well, it changed.
Our deeper framing of communities is consistent…with some important twists
Our deeper framing is revealed by the picture language we use. For the linguistically minded, these are metaphorical persuasion frames. The human mind developed beyond other animals by its ability to describe one thing in terms of another.
Here’s our deeper psychological approach to communities:
1. Communities are containers. With an inside, boundary and outside.
2. Communities are connections. Connected as a collective or with direct links or lacking links (separation – the inverse of connection).
3. Communities are structures. They have foundations, offer support and need building.
4. Communities are a valuable resource.
Communities as a valuable resource levels stayed exactly the same. (Interestingly, ‘lacking resource’ didn’t really enter our deeper thinking).
But we made a significant mind-shift away from outside the community container to inside. BEFORE outside was +215% and inside was -20%. But AFTER outside fell to +141% and inside shot up to +140%.
In other words, our psychological framing shifted towards inside over outside. It’s possible that this reflects the fact that prior to Congregation we were actually outside. We were writing as individuals from multiple places. Then we came together in a very small village with water defining unusually tight boundaries.
We also rewired our brains more towards connection (+29%). We also upped our thinking around ‘building’ and communities as ‘structures’ by +20%.
Some things were constant.
We still talked about groups of people. And our focus was consistently on present day needs. We kept our levels of confidence and humility either side of the event. And we remained pretty ego-centric. Logical reasoning remained our predominant form of thinking.
But there’s no doubt that Congregation changed us in many ways.
Our agenda on ideas around community altered significantly. ‘People’, ‘ideas’, ‘others’, ‘differences’, ‘place’…all became more important.
The event really got us emotionally engaged. It also made us, as a group, measurably less radical in our attitudes towards change. But our action thinking notched up.
Building connections became more important to our deeper thinking. And there was a shift in our framing towards ‘insideness’, or belonging.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who responded to Eoin’s call for post-event thoughts. Without you this analysis wouldn’t have been possible. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. Or just saying hello.
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