A couple of months ago I facilitated some digital strategy sessions at a smaller organisation. Everything was going well and participants debated energetically with each other. After a while, however, it became apparent to me that every discussion, every game, every assignment resulted in the same two groups discussing a variation of the same theme. Although the group explored lots of options, they continued to disagree on the same thing, all the time.
Taking a step back, I realised it all came down to two different ideas about the word ‘digital’. Although participants thought they were talking about the same thing, in reality they could as well have been speaking different languages. I paused the session, had a little debate about the meaning of ‘digital’ and together we decided on a shared language to use for the different ideas within the group. After that, the sessions really got going.
A shared language for ideas is key to turning your ideas into action. Even when people have the same mother tongue and have been working in the same office for years, it doesn’t mean they define words in the same way.
“Shared language refers to people developing understanding amongst themselves based on language (e.g. spoken, text) to help them communicate more effectively.” (source)
A simple exercise to see to what extend your organisation has a shared language for ideas, take the 3 to 5 central words in your mission statement (“open”, “platform”, “network”, etc.) and ask your direct colleagues to define them in the context of your organisation. If you want ideas about the future to become reality, people should understand what others mean when they use one of these words. (Read more »)