Posted tagged ‘intelligence’

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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Marketers: There are seven separate intelligences

October 9, 2007

The Education Coalition, a non-profit agency that delivers web-based learning, contains a treatise on cognitive research from Howard Gardner of Harvard that postulates there are seven distinct intelligences.

People, he says, know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or make things, an understanding of other individuals and an understanding of ourselves.

But individuals differ in the strength of these intelligences and in the ways in which they are used for learning.

This isn’t just some cognitive theory of interests to academics or educators. Anyone attempting to deliver information to influence opinion, behaviour, or thinking in general — that means marketers and communicators — should take note as well.

It means that your messages have to be framed in many ways if they are to hit their mark.

Most of us are used to linguistic learning — the effective use of words, whether spoken or in print. It’s the basis of most advertising and public relations. But not everyone is comfortable with that system.

Others, like architects and sailors, think in terms of physical space; dancers and surgeons think in terms of bodily-kinesthetic; many today are sensitive to rhythm and sound; several today understand by interacting with others; some initiate understanding by relating to their own interests and goals; many, such as scientists, lawyers, and engineers, think conceptually or abstractly.

This means that every marketer and communicator today has to intimately understand the targets for their messages. If your target market is technology people, you may want to consider using visual-spatial, or logical-mathematical styles; if it’s athletes or other people who are in tune with their bodies, you’ll want to use the kinesthetic approach.

Those of us who don’t have such extreme targets might want to mix several kinds of styles in order to capture the majority of people. For example, combine words with visuals with sound with interpersonal interaction (i.e. social networking).