The Role and Place for Concepts and Jargon

I recently read an acquaintance’s blog post on language and intrapreneurship, which got me to thinking about when loaded and technical terms are helpful at all.

Over the last 10 years of meeting many fascinating people and learning a lot about the world of business and design, concepts and jargon have helped make sense of things. And intelligently talk with others. But examples are necessary for meaningful conversation.

Take for example CPFR (concept), which refers to ongoing dialogue among partners so supply meets demand, with as little wasted time, money, and effort as possible. This is particularly critical for humanitarian work.

Or take kerning (jargon), which refers to the amount of proportional white space between letters in visual design. It’s a very minor detail that can help make text more pronounced (when tight) or comfortable (when loose).

While we can probably see the role and place for these terms, they’re only helpful if the people you’re talking to know what they mean. The two previous examples though are fairly specific, and can be helpful among professionals.

Now let’s turn to the mother of abstractions though: Nominalizations.
Want a funny introduction? Read this New York Times opinion piece and come back.

This is when language goes extreme abstract.
Potentially attractive and inspirational too.
They help make better articles and speeches.
But they don’t help get things done. Individually or collectively.

Ask any creative agency and they’ll tell you how much vague language hurts the client relationship. The same thing applies within organizations too. This is exactly why lawyers, designers, and project managers have to enforce a common set of terms and ensure that everyone knows and agrees on what they mean.

If big change is necessary, let’s do ourselves, colleagues, and partners a favor.
Help make it possible be keeping language simple. Leave out all the technical words and concepts.

Aspiration can be sexy.

But Hope is easier.