Fredrik Leek, Jan Johansson - Tillväxtbloggen

Are You Speaking The Same Language?

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This blog has nothing to do with actually speaking different languages but more the inclusive (and sometimes exclusive) language that engulfs industries and companies. Regardless of what you call them – slang, jargon, acronyms, or idioms they could be impacting the way you communicate with potential customers, partners and even internally with your co-workers.

Obviously, as consultants we are occasionally guilty of this ourselves!

We had a meeting a few months ago when our customers said the well known Swedish saying “… jag vet inte om det här är fågel eller fisk“. A very simple saying for native Swedish speaker, while I was left thinking literally about fish and birds.


First tip of advice: If you do not understand something, ask for clarification in “plain and simple English/Swedish”. This might seem easy, but in our experience few actually ask.

Then we come to fashionable Buzzwords, these words feel great to use, but depending on the recipient can carry a drastically different meaning then the one initially intended. Strategy, Lean, Research, Innovation, Flexible, Customer Service and Dynamic are a couple that easily come to mind.

Example 1 – Strategy:
This might be one of our favourites; Strategy frequently get confused with tactics or plans. For example, Digital Strategy for Developers / IT Consultants could mean how to digitise an existing business model or how to develop new digital products or services. While at the same time Digital Strategy for a Brand Agency might mean how to work with digital marketing on websites, social media and with targeted adds.

Example 2 – Lean:
Probably one of the biggest Buzzwords in recent time.

Lean if discussed in terms of a startup tends to be based on Lean Startup Methodology with first introduced in 2008 by Eric Ries. This book is rooted in the concept of testing the market as you build your company following Learn -> Build -> Measure Methodology.

In manufacturing the term Lean carries a different meaning. In these circles Lean has evolved from the post World War II, Toyota Production System (TPS) approach of production and manufacturing. With emphasis on reducing bottlenecks, and inconsistencies while eliminating waste.

Example 3 – Research:
Without going into too many details we can probably agree that there is a fundamental difference between how small and medium sized companies approach ”research” and how the academic world conducts scholarly peer-reviewed research. In this case, both parties could benefit from a close cooperation, but frequently miss opportunities because they don’t ”speak the same language”.

These are just a few examples of how language can affect the way we communicate with others. A final tip imported all the way from Canada, “You do not fully understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother.”

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