Are You Speaking the Same Language As Your Audience?

Are you dropping the ball when it comes to conveying your ideas – about data, about creativity, about direction, about design – in ways that your audience really understands?

Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, blogged yesterday about the moment when he realized he could be translating his work more effectively.

In Delivering Your Innovative Ideas, Schrage says that right before he gave an innovation workshop for Procter & Gamble's R&D group, he saw a 3-page memo that the event’s host had put together about Schrage’s work.

The memo was written in “P&G-ese,” Schrage says, with words and terms and phrases that weren’t his. They were, instead, in the P&G vernacular.

“P&G's innovation vocabulary was far more important to my effectiveness than my own,” Schrage writes. “Not only would I need to make an effort to talk differently, I now understood I'd have to listen differently, too. Words would speak as loudly as actions. I radically changed my workshop's design.”

He continues: ”This serendipitous experience transformed how I professionally share expertise. Client-driven translation is the most cost-effective reality-check I know for assessing influence. When you're asking people to innovate beyond their existing experience and comfort zone, anything that facilitates how they better understand you in their own words is a huge win.”

Schrage’s new book, Getting Beyond Ideas: The Future of Rapid Innovation will be published in April. MIT SMR spoke with Schrage last spring about how managers can turn IT into something more than infrastructure.