Attending a global event, it’s often the case that even when people speak different tongues, it is actually the power of common language that enables connections and allows for collaboration, especially between members of different disciplines.
The power of common language hasn’t been an explicit theme here at the IABC World Conference in New Orleans.
But in a number of its key sessions: workshops on innovation and career management, and keynote speeches looking at mindsets and behaviors in particular, it became apparent that even with the best of intent and the deepest of empathy, it is only possible for people to connect and act on their connections if they can operate within a sufficient base of common language.
Alberta consultant Karen Zypchyn, who led the innovation session, built her discussion out of the lexicon and methodology elaborated by Everett Rogers in his seminal text, Diffusion of Innovations, which articulates an end-to-end definition of the innovation process. In doing so, from my perspective, she did two things—she provided a set of words that I could align with my own for defining specific concepts, activities and actions, and then demonstrated how those terms and concepts interacted with each other.
London’s Stephen Welch and Casilda Malagon, in a simulation exercise promoted as ostensibly being about communicators’ career management, did much the same thing in a different way. By embedding IABC’s own Global Standard of career development into the decision-making criteria, they were able to define and score specific responses, using common specific language to provide rigor on subjects that might be subject to squabbling about definitions and alternative outcomes.
Even Fortune’s Geoff Colvin, who focused on empathy and collaborativeness as being the key attributes of sustainable employment in the 21st century corporate world, left the door open with his focus on empathy. For even if there is a deep desire to understand, such understanding is limited if it can’t be connected with action and collaboration through language.
Some takeaways, in my view:
- Communicators will be better positioned to have impact when they can grasp and use the terminology of the people they want to engage and influence. Communicators will be more effective at supporting business innovation by embracing the language and processes of those currently leading innovation in their worlds.
- By injecting specificity and rigor into a historically qualitative and intangible conversation about the role of communicators and how they best develop, the IABC Global Standard itself can help accelerate its own diffusion inside – and outside – IABC’s direct sphere of influence.
- Even unlimited empathy and collaborative enthusiasm lacks value unless it is aligned for a common purpose and within common operating principles, as those principles and purposes are brought to life in language.
Have I missed something? Feel free to engage me on Twitter at @mklein818