Posted tagged ‘information flow’

Complexity to Clarity: Translating geek and other business languages

March 27, 2008

This morning, I facilitated a discussion among technology marketers on the growing problem of language dichotomy. Specifically it was the problem of an overwhelming culture of geek speak and how it bleeds in to the marketing side of things.

Now, the problem of the genius manager who can’t seem to speak in anything under 10 paragraphs, isn’t new. But what does seem to be new is that it’s spreading beyond just tech speak. Jargon, or verbal shorthand for those in the know, is growing everywhere, and in many non-technology sectors.

I’m convinced it’s because of the growth in complexity of modern business: As business management becomes increasingly more process oriented, it becomes increasingly more complex. But at the same time the demand for simple communication — among customers, employees and other stakeholders — has never been higher.

There’s so much information washing around out there now, that people can’t process it all. And this amplifies when the information is difficult and time consuming to process. We’re in the age where information moves at light speed so as to convert to knowledge, and if you can’t convey something simply and quickly, no one listens further. There are just too many alternatives that can be added to their knowledge base.

So, we’re talking about an information flow problem, which seems to be most egregious in the technology space. This is probably because too much emphasis in IT is put on the T (technology) and not enough on the I (information) part.

What came out of our discussion was a recognized need to return to the basics of communication. This can be summed up in a few points.

  • It’s not about the technology, it’s about the business. This can be expanded to mean it’s not about the product or service but about what the product or service does for the buyer. That’s all he or she cares about, and so that’s the information that should be delivered.
  • Know thy customer. Or, in other terms, separate the information receiver into needs segments. Sounds pretty basic, but many business processes don’t think in these terms. They think in terms of what they do, not what they can do for someone.
  • Be extremely clear about the benefit or threat (if ignored). This is an old sales technique, and is also the basis of the oldest information delivery system around — the news industry. It means you have to put your product or service into terms that are understandable emotionally — it helps because of this (i.e. saves time, saves money, or something else), or avoids a threat that might hurt you (i.e. less revenue, higher costs).
  • Know yourself. There’s usually miscommunication in business because the information deliverer doesn’t really understand what its own business is, and so can’t convey that to the receiver. Use the W6 process I posted on previously to determine who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. As a marketer, you have to act as the bridge between the geniuses in the labs who created the product or service, and the not-so-genius people who are going use it. The only way to do this is to put it into simple, understandable terms. Strip away all the add-ons and subtleties and say it in a few short words. Then put them back in when the prospect asks questions.
  • Consider the differing intelligences. Intelligence is how you process information, and most information deliverers, i.e. the CEO or CTO, often have linear intelligences…. they think logically. But there are 7 different intelligence types and it’s a good bet that most receivers are of the six that are not linear. So it’s like someone sending out a signal on one radio channel while the radios are tuned to other channels. It’s just not going to register.
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The Widget Campaign: Information Relevancy

September 27, 2007

In my journalism days, I used to tell a story to outsiders to explain how news is generated. It still has great relevance to how information flows within and without an organization.

In the story, the publisher arrives one Monday morning and announces to the managing editor that at a cocktail party the previous Saturday evening, all the chatter was about Widgets. Maybe it should be looked into.

Managing editor calls in his assistants and indicates that the Big Guy wants something done on Widgets. Assistants go to the city desk and demand a serious campaign on Widgets.

City desk puts together a team and for the next week the paper features endless, award-aimed, stories about Widgets.

After about ten days and pages upon pages of Widget articles, the publisher informs the managing editor that his contacts are wondering why all this noise about Widgets.

Instantly, the cry goes out: No More Widget stories!

In many organizations with hierachical structures, information flow is similar to the Widget campaign. Information that flows from the top down the chain, or from the bottom up the chain, gets extremely distorted along the way.

Noise is accumulated and time is lost as the information stops at each level. Information flow is usually seriously impaired and the information that makes it is often very distorted.

Similarly, information flow for marketing and communications is often impaired inside and outside an organization.

Those in charge of information usually employ traditional information channels, i.e. public relations. But various corporate managers ride herd on and “add” to the information process.

The result is often a press release or information campaign written by committee that covers everybody’s butts, says absolutely nothing, and is numbingly dull. It invariably finds its way right into everybody’s trash can and the campaign falls flat.

But just as organizational information flow can often be speeded up and cleansed by using a network structure, use of social media networks can sometimes eliminate the clog and crud that is often a feature of corporate information campaigns.

Dissemination through different channels demands that the information be relevant to the user. This in turn often forces the deliverer to speak plainly, have a point, and tell a logical and interesting story.