Context: A Short Conversation

What is Context?

People often ask us why we focus so much on context and why we put such a premium on the discussion about context in our approach to organizational transformation. We have discovered that no other single area of focus seems to have the kind of impact and leverage in an organization that context has. Understanding what context is and, most importantly, being clear about how context works can empower senior leaders to make an extraordinary difference in their transformation effort.

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of context:

Context: The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.

Context comes from Middle English words meaning “together” plus “to weave.”

So you see, context is everything that surrounds a particular subject. Not only is context in the background, it is the background. It is the place from which people think. Context has the power to shape what we think and what we know. It is only when we are aware of the context for a specific situation, can that situation – in the dictionary’s terms – “be fully understood.”

Context is a word that isn’t immediately clear to organizational leaders when they first hear it.

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*Some of the concepts from this article are derived from the work of Werner Erhard and are used with permission.