Do you know what the definition of insanity is? No doubt you have heard a proposed definition of insanity many times. In nearly every meeting about change, or broken processes someone breaks out TDOI. If you haven’t been in a course-correction meeting since the Korean War, here is the statement I am referring to:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” -unknown
This quote has been misattributed to everyone. Einstein, Twain, Franklin, Cheech, Chong.
But it is not true. I have degrees from The University of Wisconsin in both journalism and psychology. Which makes the inaccurate reporting of this psychological definition feel like a wheel of cheese under my proverbial mattress.
Here is the actual definition
noun. The state of being seriously mentally ill; madness:
or: extreme foolishness or irrationality.
Insanity comes from the Latin ‘in’ (meaning not) and ‘sanus’ (which makes me snicker, but means healthy).
When you put them together you get insane, meaning not healthy.
I encourage you to continue pointing out the problem of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But let’s lose ‘the definition’ part. Definitions sound so… definitive. This statement is more of a creative observation. So let’s try it like this:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
We can call this a metaphor instead of a definition. It still works. Yet it doesn’t make me want to throw my DSM-IV across the conference room table. Deal?
Words make me laugh. Double entendres are one of my favorite things on Earth. I love innuendo and the word play that Shakespeare thought was funny. I analyze the meaning of words like a lawyer. A really fun, 10-year-old lawyer. Last night my family and I watched a special on TV about the Voyager 1 & Voyager 2 spacecrafts. Every time they mentioned Uranus, me and my boys (10 & 7) giggled like elementary school kids. Come on, how do you keep it together when the narrator says, ‘Scientists from around the world were on the edge of their seats, waiting to get their first good look at Uranus.’?
Here on Earth, I work in the marketing universe. The language used in this space is hilarious. I am sensitive to all the silly words used every day in marketing that really make no sense. They simply give us a fancy way to talk that makes us sound crafty and inventitive.
Professional marketers talk about things like ‘solutions’. Which is a ridiculous marketing term. Because everything you pay money for is a solution to something. Food is a solution to hunger. A house is a solution to homelessness. A bathrobe is a solution to nakedness.
The word we don’t need.
But the funny word that makes me laugh today is ‘marketplace’. Sales and marketing people talk this up like it is a magical environment, like Alice’s Wonderland. Or Oz. Or Narnia. Or Vegas.
But the ‘marketplace’ is a fancy-sounding word that simply means reality.
‘We are performing well in the marketplace’ means ‘We are performing well.’
‘The product has not caught on in the marketplace’ means ‘The product has not caught on.’
‘I bought some fish in the marketplace’ means you bought some fish in the marketplace. Ok, this use is legit. But this is never what marketers mean.
I propose that we stop adding ‘in the marketplace’ to our language. It’s a verbositization that we could all do without. If you ever find a way to buy and sell things outside the marketplace (world of trade), let me know. Because you, my friend, have done the impossible.