A couple of months ago, I joined a project team that wanted help building and testing a prototype. I said yes, and the first thing I did was ask them to describe their concept in one sentence. The result?
Needless to say, we spent the next 30 minutes trying to understand each other. Eventually, visualizing the idea on a piece of paper did the trick.
But this ordeal got me thinking: Why do multidisciplinary teams have so much trouble understanding each other?
It doesn’t matter where you stand on the corporate ladder or how advanced you are in the innovation industry; blank faces happen often in this environment. Have you ever realized that one person’s definition of, say, an innovation challenge, is completely different from your own? Or perhaps you’ve given someone a project or task only to find yourself confused by the end result?
Why different words mean different things to different innovators
These misunderstandings happen for a lot of reasons. On the one hand, you might be working within an organization that doesn’t have a structured approach to innovation yet, so practices like Design Thinking, Agile, Service Design, and Business Model Design are too new to be part of the common vernacular. On the other hand, researchers and companies seem to be creating new definitions or new frameworks (and debating the meaning of existing ones) every month. And we all have different points of reference.
No more tomayto, tomahto.
Why we need to explain innovation terms simply
All these conversations lead to key corporate innovation phrases meaning different things to different people. This miscommunication is a silent threat that haunts most innovation teams.
Add to the mix the fact that employees often try to look smart in the eyes of their bosses, and you end up with whole teams being unwilling to ask straightforward questions like: What do you mean by that?
We assume that our interpretations are completely aligned, only to find out once we’re knee-deep in a project that we were talking about totally different things. Ouch!
But do not fear, friends! There is hope.
Demystifying innovation buzzwords
What we're doing to help you and your team speak the same language
Our first fix, the living Corporate Innovation Glossary created by Jennifer (Shabshelowitz) Tsitsopoulos, involves establishing a common language and understanding of what innovation practices and buzzwords mean. We’re going to begin using these for our different talent programs and toolkit developments.
The second solution, our Innovation Taboo game, will help you find ways to describe terms so that everyone – no matter their background – understands what you’re saying.
Meet our Corporate Innovation Glossary.
Have you ever heard a phrase in a meeting and secretly had no idea what it meant? Want to ensure you’re using an innovation buzzword correctly? Then check out our Corporate Innovation Glossary.
We’re releasing this innovation-words list today, but we want it to be a living document that’s updated as definitions evolve. So, we’ll need your help. Have we missed a term or phrase? Let us know in the form at the bottom of the glossary.
Introducing Innovation Taboo
Need help explaining words related to innovation simply? Want a tool to ensure every member of your interdisciplinary team is on the same page? This is the game for you.
We initially created Innovation Taboo for internal purposes, to both have fun with our colleagues and make it easier for us to explain certain terms without using lingo, jargon, or buzzwords.
But we soon realized that Innovation Taboo could be a great tool for you, too. Use it to help workshop participants from various backgrounds understand – and explain – words related to innovation. Because as Einstein famously quipped, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”