On Learning Spanish

Recently, I began learning Spanish using the Duolingo app. As someone new to the Spanish language, the process has been fun. The folks at Duolingo use a mix of gamification, and good old fashion push notification bombardment to keep you engaged in the curriculum.

Even though the app has been engaging and easy to use, it’s hard to learn a new language as an adult. Really hard. The experience made me think about my career as a consultant, and what goes along with it; meeting new clients, being trusted to make smart, thoughtful recommendations to lead a their business, and also the language I use. I’m not talking about off-color remarks, because I am good for a handful of those each day, but the language of business, and more specifically strategy and design. Parsing through the ever-changing definitions of words and abbreviations like experience mapping, XD, IA, UI, interaction design, personas, service design (and more) can be difficult for professionals within the field — let alone a client who might be dipping their toe in the water for the first time on a customer experience or design project.

Our clients are often put in high-pressure situations, managing a large investment in their organization’s time, resources, and money. Trying to make sense of, these terms, while making informed decisions can be daunting— especially for those once removed from the project (typically the one who is making the final decision).

In most situations the most important thing you can do as a consultant is empower your client, which is why nothing can afford to be lost in translation. I try and speak like a human, not like a suit. I try to explain the what and the why, and leave the jargon and abbreviations outside of the meeting room.

I am challenging myself to identify an industry term, phrase or concept I use often in meetings or conversations and define it as though I need to explain it to my mom or dad. They don’t keep up on brand purpose frameworks, and most likely, neither does my client.

It’s too easy in pop culture, or business to feel like you are a step behind the trend — don’t make your clients feel like they have to learn a foreign language to do business with you.