Vincent Feeney User Experience Designer Melbourne

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How to communicate an abstract idea

If you want a concept to stick, give it a name. With objects, we can see them and touch them. A cushion is a cushion. But concepts can be abstract and hard to discuss.

In the ‘User Experience Team of One’, Leah Buley discusses ‘listening tours’ as an activity to complete. A listening tour is essentially walking around your office and talking to different people. It involves gathering people’s thoughts by, well, listening to them. There are some rules around how to do this effectively but in essence it’s talking to a bunch of people.

Giving it the name ‘listening tour’ however makes it much easier to discuss. You can add a framework around it, create structure and justify the time invested into it. Creating that name gives everyone a shared understanding of what a good ‘listening tour’ is. If you suggested you were just going to walk around the office and talk to people for a week, you may not get the same level of buy-in as when it’s called a ‘listening tour’.

You can do this for anything. We’ve recently started ‘SME Fridays’ at work, where we regularly setup customer interviews with our small-medium business clients every Friday. This allows those outside our design team to spend time with customers, every Friday. That’s not even a good name. Or a creative one. In fact, we’re thinking of moving it to Thursday’s, so it’ll probably change. But this initiative became ‘real’ when it had a name. We’ve got something to rally around, we can create posters, get a budget and market internally.

This idea is founded in the psychological process of ‘chunking’. You’re creating a ‘mnemonic’ (‘memory device) — it’s easier to recall something that has a name than something that doesn’t. It’s simple but effective and I believe it’s under-used.

So if you want to create a buzz around something and get people talking about it, give it a name. If you’re trying to get people onboard with a new idea — give it a name. And the more you talk about it, the stickier it will get.

Vincent Feeney