For innovation to prosper and novel designs to get funded, we need a more thoughtful language to communicate across isolated disciplines, with more clarity. A language that people enjoy and comprehend. Imagine tax laws written in a language people understand. Or think of well-crafted words in an organization’s by-laws that leave innovators inspired to invent. Is it time to reconfigure jargon and transform legalese into clear communication - for the sake of innovative opportunities that people understand and can access?
Finances can head over slippery slopes because of jargon. Business policies can hide clues about their real meaning in the mayhem of chaotic legalese. People can lose their jobs over contracts they misunderstand. Minorities can face embarrassing situations when unfamiliar expressions exclude them. Innovators in one field falter when jargon in another field barricades any kind of joint solutions to shared problems.
When speech leads to miscommunication, innovation becomes an emperor without clothes. In the chaos of pretentious prose, or where meaning yields to confusion, turmoil takes innovation’s place. What if we continually asked good questions until clarity replaced jargon in communications related to our work? Perhaps then we'd find shared language to accurately describe original pathways forward.
Instead complexity, confusion, and cynicism drive workplaces into corruption, where we hear of scams that could have been innovative initiatives. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” Integration across diverse fields would foster designs crafted for a new era, one where simple communication crosses silos of unclear language that works against high impact minds.
The human brain’s hardwired to latch onto familiar parts of any message communicated, in order to pound new neuron pathways toward meaning in that message. In order to merge talents across silos, and partner in innovative break-throughs, it's essential to move beyond the clutter of language that appears bent on confounding, rather than complimenting talents in diverse fields.
Clear communication links what people already know to what stirs curiosity in their brain. See the mental synergy created here to chase and absorb complex skills? In contrast, jargon breaks that critical exchange and risks meaningless circles that go nowhere.
Jargon stops clarity, robs understanding, implies exclusion, and sends overtones of pretentiousness. Yet we delude ourselves into thinking it’s necessary when we speak in our own area of expertise. It's taught in leadership classes, so we shouldn't be surprised it's evidenced in workplace practice. Read any PhD thesis – including mine – and you’ll see jargon amplified, by requirement.
When entire systems such as finances, health care or higher education, break down, corrupt and confound intelligent people, it’s time to power up the brain and reboot ethical practices to simplify and support a shared language.
Some business leaders worry that communication that removes jargon will “dumb down” their key messages. Others fear they no longer will be essential if ordinary people begin to understand and communicate the language as effectively as experts. And a few admit that they fear losing their funding unless they articulate initiatives in jargon used by funders.
Venture capitalists tend to fund ideas scripted in language economists banter, and financial lingo is far from communicative. Most "fundable" projects lack the inspired luster that melds together multiple talents across several fields to shape a wider future. Few innovators find support however, to articulate their bright ideas in simpler speech so that people from other fields can contribute meaningfully to the discourse.
Behind convoluted bureaucracies, that cling to bloated barriers, awaits supreme innovation for brilliant systems – in simply stated tenets. Those who call for systemic excellence, will want to support smart skills that cut through bureaucratic debris with unpretentious style, and opens the gate for renewal opportunities
Here are ten questions that might reduce jargon, and promote innovative growth:
1. What would your idea look like if we had one?
2. How does your insight improve one practice we currently do?
3. If your idea was written into a play what would appear on the stage?
4. How would this design be worded for a novice to apply it?
5. What exactly would result if your proposal was lost to the world?
6. How were others welcomed into the process and engaged meaningfully?
7. Did diversity exist so that opposing views found a welcoming audience?
8. What opportunities exist for all to reflect and improve incrementally?
9. Do questions get tossed around with good tone so answers come back?
10. Would both a novice and an expert find meaning and clarity here?
C.S. Lewis would likely suggest the solution - simplicity beyond complexity.
While this is merely an entry point to a finer roundtable on language fit to lead the innovation era, I'd be interested to hear how others solved their barriers of pretentious prose in organizations that block innovative progress.