Lost in translation (learning the language of business)

Last month we ran a breakout session as part of SDNOW that tackled the issue of the language divide between design and business, and worked on ways to overcome this. Watch an interview with one of our Senior Design Strategists who helped facilitate the session and see the insights we uncovered through this event.

We've all experienced the difficulty of misunderstandings. Whether you are the one being misunderstood or you cannot make sense of what another person is saying, on both sides you end up feeling frustrated. For people who work in disciplines like design that have their own lexicon of words to describe what they do, it can be incredibly difficult to try to bridge this gap.

Last month during Service Design Now (SDNOW), we had the chance to help people with exactly this issue through collaboration with conference attendees. SDNOW is all about design, strategy, ethics and futures, and was hosted this year by RMIT University in Melbourne. Our staff have been involved with the conference for a few years, both as attendees and running workshops. Last year we held a workshop on workshops called Co-design with purpose that examined the potential for co-design to succeed or fail, and shared our company principles for purposeful co-design that puts empathy and users at the centre. This year we broadened our scope to look at the language we use as designers and how to improve the way we communicate our value to a business. This session was called Lost in translation (learning the language of business).

The thought behind 'Lost in Translation (learning the language of business)'

To tackle the problem of design language becoming lost in translation, we designed our breakout session to collaboratively identify the common points of confusion that people face when trying to communicate about design. We all wish for the ideal world where a designer's function in business would be well understood, well communicated, and well supported. But this is not often the reality. As part of this session, attendees were encouraged to consider what we can do as designers to cultivate better understanding, better communication and better support. We also worked on articulating the positive contributions that designers make to businesses, the negative impacts we might be unintentionally having, and some areas for improvement.

"Language becomes the culture you inhabit... the way you talk about what you do becomes the way people view what you do"

Adam Corcoran, one of our Senior Design Strategists at Portable, had this thought in mind when he was designing and facilitating Lost in translation during SDNOW. In the following video we interviewed Adam to find out a bit more about how this breakout session came to be, the thought that went into it from our design team and the insights that were gathered from the workshop.

Adam's recommendations for further investigation into this topic:

Our insights from Lost in Translation

Below you will find the insights from our breakout session that were developed for both designers and those working alongside them to use after the session. We encourage you to think about the other opportunities you have to make the language you use in your work more accessible and inclusive.

If you are interested in finding ways to succeed in design and innovation through communicating clearly, our Hacking the Bureaucracy report is a great place to find out more. For this report we conducted interviews with over a hundred people in Government roles and examined projects that have succeeded or failed. This helped us to identify some of the critical factors required for people working in policy and policy implementation to be successful in innovating. This report covers not only ways to communicate clearly but how to structure your approach to a project to help you to succeed in the long run.

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