Do You Use Bad Language At Work? • Derek Cheshire

Do You Use Bad Language At Work? • Derek Cheshire

An example of using innovation language

No, I am not referring to swearing or uttering profanities. Do you use language at work that is not appropriate in a way that is not understood by other people? This is language that is bad for communication, bad for understanding and ultimately bad for organisational culture and of course your profitability.

In a world where people of different cultures might come together and where people from different disciplines might need to collaborate it is perfectly possible that our colleagues might at best, misinterpret what we are saying, and at worst might not have a clue.

It is often said that communication has two parts, a message and a meaning. The message might be written in a common language such as English but the meaning could vary.

Let’s take the example of a group of people that have been recruited to form an Innovation function. Previously they have worked in engineering, research, operations, sales, marketing, finance and logistics. You want them to gel as a team and then create ideas for a new product or service and then deliver it.

But, they all start arguing when it comes to the basics. There seem to be many different ideas about the deliverables that you want from them. What exactly is a strategy, a plan, even a team? It may sound trivial but avoiding such mismatches of expectation and delivery can avoid a lot of heartache.

Many years ago I had the pleasure of listening to Ralph Ardill from the Brand Experience consultancy about a project that turned an empty brewery into a major tourist attraction for Guinness (The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin). He had to define a language for the project team that he brought together. We’ll never know if it would have worked if he had not, but the result is stunning. Follow the link above to see for yourself.

Marketers have long understood the power of language. They talk of brand strategies and have manuals that describe image and tone of voice. Historically these have been used to communicate with customers and then more recently internally so that this affects the culture within the business.

This is all good but language has not really been considered in a technical or engineering context other than simply to define a technical term (length, width, height, density etc).

The big question is, how far do you take it? Does the placement of desks and other office furniture just contribute to ergonomics or because it affects us as human beings, is it part of the ‘language of the office’?

At this point I say it does not really matter, and apart from being interested, what happens in individual businesses is of no concern to me (sounds harsh I know). But what I hope I have highlighted is that there is a long list of things that could be considered as part of the everyday ‘language’ of your business and that you should think about what you use and what aspects are covered.

So, please take a look at the Guiness Storehouse website and remember to avoid ‘bad’ language if possible.

More about Innovation language…

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