We think we need a community to advance an idea , but in reality it is not one community, it is many communities. This is why communication and influence is so challenging. If it were just one community then one way of communicating something would work and communication wouldn’t be so challenging.
Communicating one way is a mistake often made by technologists trying to express an idea. They use technical diagrams elaborating a business solution and believe that the same illustration can work for technologists and businesspeople alike. WRONG! This is one of the first rules of communicating – understand your audience. This is why methodologies are a trap. Methodologies prescribe a certain way of thinking (context) and the user of the methodology starts to believe that the representations they understand will be understandable by others with a different context. However, shared context is essential for shared understanding.
In this YouTube video, Physicist Richard Feynman describes the difficulty of answering a “why” question. He explains that in order to answer the question ‘why do magnets attract?’ both parties (Feynman and the interviewer) must share the same understanding (context) for the explanation be meaningful. If both do not share the same context then the less informed party must accept that it is true and not look further for explanation.
Yet, this is not true with respect to information technology (IT). If the other party does not understand what you are saying, they won’t accept that it is true, and you will not get their support to proceed. I call this the Feynman IT paradox. For any situation where the terminology used is not shared by both parties, the more knowledgeable party (the one with the proposed solution) needs to adopt the context of the other person to be understood. In other words, leave the terminology at the door.
So we are not communicating with a single community with a common context, we are communicating with multiple communities with multiple contexts. Therefore, don’t get hung up on one representation, make as many representations as you require to communicate to various communities within your organization. Strive to create common communication for a particular community, but be sure to address the needs for the variety of contexts.
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