Semiotics is the study of the signs and symbols that imbue meaning and meaningful communication. It includes the study of signs and sign processes, indication, designation, likeness, analogy, allegory, metonymy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication.
Semiotics has been recognized as having important anthropological and sociological implications by many of the greatest innovators behind the respective disciplines. Umberto Eco proposed that every cultural phenomenon may be studied as communication; Clifford Geertz, arguably the 20th Century’s most respected anthropologist, once wrote that ‘culture is the culmination of symbols that transmit behavior’.
It is with these thoughts in mind that Gapingvoid started to study how to impact organizational outcomes by informing culture, mindset, beliefs, and behaviors through semiotic tools.
We have consistently witnessed and measured how people’s perceptions can be shifted through the meaning attached to objects. Back in 2005, we popularized the term ‘social object’ with semiotics in mind: the idea that objects spread ideas faster and more effectively than nearly any other medium We see daily examples in internet memes and Red Baseball Caps, which have come to represent an entire political ideology.
The advertising world has been leveraging this quirk of human cognition for many years, as have religions, nation-states, and political parties. The question Gapingvoid had to answer was: is it possible to create frameworks to capture data that can be utilized to develop semiotic tools that drive scalable changes in organization outcomes?
Our innovation was to leverage human nature’s predisposition to connect by designing social objects with meaning that is useful for organizations. Neuroscience undisputedly demonstrates that people remember ideas better when they are attached to images.
However, there is not much literature about the deployment of semiotics to drive organizational behaviors and outcomes. It is more obvious to create an ad or informational sign (like a stop sign) than to visually express an important organizational mindset that will deliver better results as we have done.
We took on that challenge, and over the last fourteen years, we have created approximately fifteen thousand such objects. At the same time, we have studied controversial ideas that debunk established norms such as traditional change management or biophilic art in healthcare. We have been able to compellingly demonstrate that deliberately designed semiotics that portrays a nuanced approach to combining picture superiority and emotion, deliver outsized results.
Gapingvoid continues to study semiotics as a system for management and how it can be informed by recent developments in neuroscience and social sciences, it has been broadly integrated into our Culture Design™ offerings and underpins offerings such as Culture Sprint™ and Culture Walls®.