Sunday, May 3, 2020

Thoughts on Abstraction of language.

In general, I assumed, people who work at corporates are good at abstracting the language. While the senior level management who wants to share the message across, uses simple language, the mid-level management and the juniors try to validate themselves by abstracting the language in such a way that one may need a diploma in the language to understand the idea or the content.

Interesting stories on the abstraction of language (Extracted from the book, Stories at Work by Indranil Chakraborty)
If a Chief Strategy Officer with effective communication in mind, says, ‘this year one of the key areas we will drive is teamwork.’ It would sound simple and straight to the point.  

But, conditioned to the elite vocabulary and in an attempt of sounding much more strategic, the same message can be told, “This year, we need to break the silos across the business and foster a sense of deep trust and collaboration across all verticals of the company.”

“In April 2018, Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla sent an email to Tesla employees. In it, he mentions seven productivity recommendations. One of them reads ‘Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation of inhibits communication. We do not want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.”

“In linguistics, the Gunning Fog Index (GFI) is a readability test for English writing. The index estimates the years of formal education a person needs to understand the text on the first reading. A GFI of 12 requires the reading level of a U.S high school senior (around 18 years old). Some analysis took the transcripts of keynote speeches given by Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and Bill Gates in 2007. The GFI for Job’s transcript was rated at 5.5, Dell at 9.1 and Gates at a whopping 10.7. This means that while one requires 5.5 years of formal education to understand Steve Job’s speech, one would need 10.7 years of formal education to understand the one delivered by Bill Gates. No wonder one understands and remembers Steve Job’s keynotes so easily.”

Maybe, it’s our abstraction of language that’s obstructing us to drive the message home.  There could be various other factors to deal with but, I discover ‘abstraction of language’ seemed to be one aspect we need to look over.

If our intention is to drive in with the message and make people act, why do we have to confuse them with the abstraction of language, creating an impression that we are dealing with something important but, unintelligible? 

Just like how I could not use the simple word for ‘unintelligible.’ It’s time that I brush up my language

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