Bridging the Internal Language Gap

Many organizations face challenges that stem from common misunderstandings in interdepartmental communication. The general lack of knowledge-sharing is an issue that almost everyone faces in their day-to-day office interactions, yet little is done to ease this problem.

Whether this confusion originates from conflicting terminology or unfamiliar department-specific jargon, weakened understanding is inevitable. Poor communication between teams or departments, e.g. design, marketing, product, engineering, can lead to a general lack of cohesion of overall product performance and structure.

Overcoming these internal challenges is tough, especially as companies and teams continue to grow. But working past this siloed approach is the first step to faster, more efficient communication, collaboration, and innovation.

Design versus business mindset and language

As companies continue to grow, most believe that simply adding a design team or department is enough. Leadership often fails to recognize that in order to get the most value out of a design function, it must be implemented into all levels of the organization from the top-down.

Becoming a design-led organization is easier said than done, particularly for well-established companies. When considering the vast inconsistencies between design and business, interactions are frustrating and oftentimes ineffective.

First and foremost, designers are problem-solvers, motivated by finding the most meaningful products or solutions for their users. On the contrary, business-oriented individuals are motivated by the goals, profits, and metrics that keep the company running.

Business-oriented executives don’t always understand the design processes, and designers oftentimes don’t take the needs of the business into consideration. Bridging this gap means prioritizing the inconsistencies in both mindset and internal language between teams and across departments.

“Design is everyone’s job. Not everyone is a designer, but everybody has to have the user as their north star.”

IBM’s general manager of design Phil Gilbert has emphasized the importance of educating the entire organization about design practices and processes, rather than siloing the domain entirely. This is something that IBM has done remarkably well.

Embedding the design process directly into the business and across departments creates a more collaborative, user-centered environment focused on successful communication. Whether that communication is between engineers, executives, developers, etc., this design-for-all approach can help align all other disciplines internally to deliver more enhanced, consistent outcomes externally.

Communication is key

In order for projects to progress in a holistic and consistent way, internal language that is understood not only within a respective team, but across department functions as well, is essential. This approach is dually beneficial, both from an internal and external point of view.

From the business perspective, meaningful internal language will successfully:

  • Increase efficiency and decrease costs through faster and more effective communication.
  • Drive more innovation and collaboration through greater transparency, understanding, and knowledge-sharing.

From the user’s perspective, increased interdepartmental communication can help to:

  • Create a noticeably stronger outward brand identity through more streamlined products, experiences, and processes.
  • Optimize ease of use and overall enjoyment for the user when interacting with a brand or product, increasing customer loyalty and engagement.

The takeaways

Department-specific language can easily isolate teams from one another. Many people fail to understand the most basic jargon that designers or design teams use on a daily basis.

Above all else, context is key when bridging any gaps in internal language within a given organization. Continuing to build on a foundation of practical knowledge, basic terminologies, and practices across departments is a great first step.

The bottom line: Everyone should be concerned about their end-to-end user experience. This can certainly be enhanced through meaningful internal collaboration and interactions.