Kia ora! I'm Blair. I design fun, educational tools that help people take action.

Why you need a shared language

Blair wrote this on 19 Jun

Apple and a triangle

When it comes to solving business problems it is usually quite an unstructured, messy process. One of the main reasons is that we don’t have a shared language to use when discussing the change we want to see in a business. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get clarity on what we need to change and why.

You may have seen the tree swing diagram depicting what often happens to most change projects.

I’ve tried to come up with an explanation of what role a shared language can play in helping business teams get clarity when they are trying to create change. Let’s look at Chefs as an example.

Chefs use a shared language when they solve food problems. For example, when they’re designing a menu.

In western culture, a menu usually has three areas:

  • entrées
  • mains
  • deserts

Using design we can visualise these areas as a canvas that chefs could use to design a menu.

Blank canvas

Chefs probably follow a process to make sure the menu they design will work. They start with the entrées, then mains, then deserts.


Within each area of our menu canvas there are probably some guidelines or rules for what should go in that area, what options they should consider and what makes a good dish. For example, roast pork probably goes in the mains area and an entrée should be a small dish and could be finger food, a soup or a salad (I’m not an actual chef so apologies to all the chefs who are screwing up their eyebrows while reading this).


The menu in it’s current form can then be tested with customers to see if it’s creating value for them. If not, it’s easy to use the shared language of menu design to make improvements over time.

So we’ve got two elements:

  • A [design] canvas (or a visual, tactile tool)
  • A process to follow

Together these elements give chefs a shared language they can use to get clarity about their work.

Apple and apple

Like chefs we too can use design canvases to solve problems and create change in our businesses. They give us a visual framework within which to brainstorm and make decisions. Most importantly they can help us get clarity, sooner, and give us something tangible to test with stakeholders, learn from and improve on.


Reply on Twitter or LinkedIn

Older / Newer