Bad words to describe new ideas

Sometimes when trying to explain a new idea it is good to use a diagram or an analogy. People understand things when they are positioned in ways that link to their existing mental models or knowledge.

Sometimes. I also use neologisms. New words that can sit inside a sentence. They are not necessarily pretty words and they are definitely not words that will be embedded into English in the long term. They are disposable jargon to act as a stepping stone to simpler, better ways of communicating.

This post is about three words. They are words that came to me while trying to explain some work I have been doing lately and some concerns that have arisen during workshops.

Allygnment

This is a deeply ugly word. It is created crashing Ally and Alignment together.

Lately I have been designing and facilitating a new workshop that uses wayfinding theory to enable better communication within teams and in projects. This image is of one version of a workshop activity.

The ABCD process starts with Alignment. Starting in the same place and sharing a sense of orientation.

What was noticeable in workshops lately is that the early stages of a project are about building relationships and understanding how to be good allies.

This is Allygment.

Not just developing a personal sense of alignment but listening and exploring how others think and talk.

Feedback was workshops was positive in the sense that people felt glad to spend time in a more open space learning how other people and their departments talk and what they value. Mostly they only encounter each other in meetings that have quite rigid agendas of what is to be discussed and done. That structure ensures that work is ‘done’ but nothing more.

The time spent before setting the project outputs and deliverables can be used to create a more human-centered sense of alignment and allyship.

Agoraphilia

Using a workshop to enable people to find allies and align their language and hopes is good. This leads to the second word.

Agora is a very old idea from Ancient Greece. The creation of a place, a market that was not merely about trade but about social interaction and education. A place for conversation and sharing ideas.

I like Agora.

That is Agoraphilia.

The design and facilitation of workshops that are places for learning and listening together.

Precess

Finally, that sense of designing good places for sharing and making (Agoraphilia) and using time together to understand each other better for future action (Allygnment) has a sense of timing.

Discovering that workshops for alignment sometimes need to go backwards, rather then forwards, changes the sense of their purpose.

Most design is about going forward. Assembling and making the new thing, travelling and researching, testing and prototyping. There are many, many versions of design thinking and design process management.

Process is biased to the movement to the next.

Precess goes backwards to the before.

If people really do not have a shared sense of alignment or allyship then any process they proceed thru will fail (or be sub-optimal).

Spending more time on the before, the pre- seems a good place to make more agora.

Bad words for good reasons

Honestly, do not use these words in real life.

I am trying to understand how to help design workshops that serve a good purpose.

Putting humans at the center is important. Putting allyship at the center is a way of creating new communities and connections.

To be purposeful about this is to be explicit about what we sometime rush past. The processes pull us into the future but sometimes we need to be intentful about stopping and going back. Listening and learning how to be together.

Originally published at https://acuity.design on October 22, 2022.

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Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX

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Alastair Somerville

Alastair Somerville

3.5K Followers

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX