It could be a trick question, coming as it does with at least three possible answers, depending on how it’s asked and to who.
Curious about an article in UXMagazine, the author of which was arguing about who now owns ‘the big idea’ that drives marketing (or advertising, or design, or all of them), made me wonder about how the language we use in negotiating our way to solutions and executions hasn’t really changed – while all around us (and especially our audiences) the means of bumping into those outcomes, has.
Hence the article’s question and dilemma – are our words holding us back?
This is especially focussing when trying to set out exactly how experience strategy differs from, or rather defers to, other types of strategy (planing, design, UX, management, etc) and strategic thinking. In ‘singing for our supper’, I’ve often been questioned about the ‘lyrics’ and I’ve thought about it a lot. After all, if you’ve a favourite recording of a track, recall how disconcerting a cover version can be.
Recalling the same debate quietly raging between design and advertising around who really defined and controlled the brand, it was amusing to see the same language (of ‘big ideas’, ‘branding’, ‘positioning’, et. al.) which as professionals we’ve employed for decades now being herded into the CX corral.
While the technical demands – of understanding and ability – on the creative sector have grown exponentially and we now have a whole ecosystem of user experience, digital design and its programmatic language, the boundaries of what we do are still limned with words that would have been comfortable in 1960‘s meeting rooms.
But why is the way we ‘think’ (i.e. diagram) about the identity/brand/experience process rooted in the past? We could just as easily talk about impressions, interactions and eyeballs, discuss identity in terms of interaction as opposed to inspiration.
Executions change, technologies leap along, trends and fads sweep in-and-out as fast as the tide, so does a fixed ‘language’ for the practical part of rationalising what we do, limit our world? On the current evidence, it would appear not.
To paraphrase a famous philosopher (who new a thing or two about linguistics), it would appear that the limits of our language don’t mean the limits of our world and I’ve an idea why.
In spite of all the technologies that we surround ourselves with and that sell us stuff we remain, stubbornly, human.
The way we react to messages, to filter, to choose, to avoid, is still firmly driven by the mechanics of what the cognitive sciences have revealed and we’ve been refining that understanding (rather than having to re-research it, having been proved wrong) over the last three generations. In a word, our ideas about ideas haven’t changed all that much. They’ve developed, grown more sophisticated, but haven’t undergone a wholesale re-invention. So there’s really no need to let go of, or search for, new words for fundamental frameworks. A map’s still a map. A stair is still a stair (and not an interzonal bipedal bridging device).
While we should always strive for new or novel ideas, don’t forget other people need the means to contextualise them. Using terms like ‘vision’, ‘mission’ and ‘proposition’ isn’t imitation and we need to guard against seeing words suddenly used elsewhere, as somehow redundant.
So stop worrying about who ‘owns’ words and concentrate on your own ideas. However tempting that original Vine post looks right now as the answer…