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Conversations: for action, for clarification, for possibilities, for orientation

In the Adaptive Enterprise research that I had conducted between 1998 and 2001, I was primarily focused on conversations for action, towards a commitment action protocol. I extended, in 2008, those ideas into a research paper to recognize (at least) four types of obligations:

  • commitments to produce a deliverable;
  • commitments to follow a process;
  • commitments to provide a capability; and
  • commitments to contribute to a relationship.

These four types were not considered exhaustive, but helpful in understanding how service systems work.

In the background, I’ve always known that there are other kinds of conversation.  To be explicit about these, I’ll refer to a 1987 article by Terry Winograd (that was a revision of 1986 workshop paper reprinted in 1988).

Winograd provides the foundations back to speech act theory, from Austin, and then Searle.

Austin (1962) noted that not all utterances are statements whose truth or falsity is at stake. Performatives, such as I pronounce you husband and wife are actions, which can be made appropriately (felicitously) or not, but which are neither true nor false in a simple sense. Similarly, the language actions of commands, questions, and apologies are not descriptions of a non-linguistic world.

Searle (1975) identified five fundamental illocutionary points — things you can do with an utterance:

In the Adaptive Enterprise research that I had conducted between 1998 and 2001, I was primarily focused on conversations for action, towards a commitment action protocol. I extended, in 2008, those ideas into a research paper to recognize (at least) four types of obligations:

  • commitments to produce a deliverable;
  • commitments to follow a process;
  • commitments to provide a capability; and
  • commitments to contribute to a relationship.

These four types were not considered exhaustive, but helpful in understanding how service systems work.

In the background, I’ve always known that there are other kinds of conversation.  To be explicit about these, I’ll refer to a 1987 article by Terry Winograd (that was a revision of 1986 workshop paper reprinted in 1988).

Winograd provides the foundations back to speech act theory, from Austin, and then Searle.

Austin (1962) noted that not all utterances are statements whose truth or falsity is at stake. Performatives, such as I pronounce you husband and wife are actions, which can be made appropriately (felicitously) or not, but which are neither true nor false in a simple sense. Similarly, the language actions of commands, questions, and apologies are not descriptions of a non-linguistic world.

Searle (1975) identified five fundamental illocutionary points — things you can do with an utterance:

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