Let’s talk language

With a surge of creative marketing advertising is now more competitive than ever before, most believe now that creative strategy boils down to just one thing or rather one word, innovation. To quickly define, innovation is taking something that already exists and improving or changing it to market more effectively. Businesses do this with products but they also do it with words. With an unlimited lexis at your fingertips people stealthily use words to their advantage on a day to day basis.  In many cases a change in the way you market your product could mean the difference in spending millions on advertising to changing the product itself.

But is ‘innovative’ language accessible to those who want it? Buzzwords with arguably ambiguous meanings are more like theories than realist strategies. How do you apply these to work effectively? I have attended a few conferences and talks on creative strategy in the last few months and it occurred to me that a lot of the time I spent trying to decipher the objectives through the jargon, trigger phrases and tech buzzwords. Many people can talk about these strategies and ideas but we, the audience, are often left in a whirlwind of words that are disconnected from any real application.

One particular word that crops up a lot and irks me a little is silos, “we can’t work in silos”, “we have to move away from silos in order to achieve synergy”, why isn’t silogy a word? My beef is thus, that this is easy to say but rarely do the speakers who say it mean it in a way that will change two (or more) things that work completely separately into something that works together. From my experience there is a lot to be gained from segregating parts of a business, like the organs of the body they work together in harmony but they all have their own processes and ways of doing things, and that works for various reasons. I’m all for synergy too, in a realistic and achievable sense. I think the reason that language like this is hard to grasp is that it often comes without context, ideas and plans but no examples or real details of how it will be achieved. A good strategy should analyze problems and policies in order to set out how they are going to be tackled and changed.

There is also the problem with the nature of inno-lingo (innovative language, a term I also made up), I will attempt to disseminate the difference between ‘innovate’ and ‘innovation’. The word innovate is formerly a verb, it is the process of changing something that has already been established whereas innovation, the noun form, is the process used on a cultural scale, Dross explains “If we use the term “innovation” the same way we use the term “innovate,” we will create cultural confusion.  This is because “innovation” is best used to describe a cultural state, while “innovate” is an action term, a deliverable, an output.  They are different things.” Henry Dross, Forbes.

Here’s another Dross quote, just for relevant kicks “The biggest challenge organizations face in building and nurturing and leading innovative cultures is language. Not plans. Not ideas. Not action items. Not even creativity. It is language” Henry Dross, Forbes
Full article here: The Rhetoric Of Innovation

These language barriers lead us to the dreaded ‘off’ switch, where you are sitting listening to an interesting talk and then when the buzzspeak pours forth you slowly move into a blank grey sphere, before snapping back thinking “I’m not listening, what are they saying now??” We’ve all been there. Using language that is decipherable to your audience is just the beginning. Motivating colleagues and connecting to your business as well as it’s needs in order to generate and encourage innovation is, in itself, another task.

My recommended reads:

Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
Victor Hwang’s The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential
Scott Berkun’s Making Things Happen

And podcast:
The Language of Innovation with Doug Williams