Sometimes I think that we live in an era of oversimplification which does no good to the learning and discussion processes around some topics. Some will just say: if people don’t understand A let’s just label it as B, even if B is not the accurate term for A. Confused? Let me give you two examples.
Exhibit 1: Oscar Berg tweeted some weeks (or was it months?) ago that he was kind of puzzled for being specifically asked by the organization of a conference NOT to use the term Enterprise 2.0. When I asked him what reason they had given he told me that they said something like “the attendants are not familiar with the concept”, to which I replied (and he agreed) that then it was the perfect timing to enlighten them.
Exhibit 2: the other day I was helping to plan a training session on social media. Someone labeled the session as being on “social networks” and during the preparation meeting I tried to understand if the focus was solely on social networking or if, as I suspected, it envisaged a broader concept. As the meeting went on I eventually confirmed my suspicion and suggested that we had then to find a new name for the session. To my surprise someone said “you can name it all you want but people will still call it social networks”.
To me these two simple examples show a quite disturbing truth: we run the risk of oversimplifying things for the sake of (supposed) immediate comprehension and to demand as little effort as possible from the brain cells of the recipients of our messages.
If people are not familiar with new topics then it is the mission (or art if you like) of those that are to enlighten them, to help them understand and differentiate concepts. Otherwise, can someone please explain to me how the hell we guarantee that we are in fact discussing the same topics if we don’t align concepts first?
I therefore refuse to simplify, even if I know that some concepts are harder to explain and require people a different mindset. We may be lost for words at times but we should not sacrifice substance.
There’s nothing wrong with semantics. The right words are there just waiting to be used in the right context.