Creative Strategy
March 26, 2021

Creating a shared understanding is always worth the effort.

Open Reference

The more abstract and new a concept is, the more effort it takes to have a shared understanding with others.‍

When people collaborate if you skip the step of defining terms, you may find everyone in a room nodding their heads, thinking they are talking about the same thing - when in fact, they are not.

Design work often starts by creating a shared understanding with a team of people.

Thought Exercise:
 Picture a mailbox in your mind. Pause and think of one for 3 seconds. What does it look like, what color is it, what can it do? A mailbox seems simple enough, but most people will picture their mailbox or some mailbox icon. But there are many types of boxes; faded gold tubes in a post office, big blue drop boxes, door slots, a free-standing box with a flag, etc. The point is that you can imagine a mailbox (a seemingly non-abstract item) in many ways. 

Three common ways to quickly get a shared understanding:

1. Be very specific in describing what you mean. If you are using jargon and shortcut words, replace them with descriptions.

2. Draw a picture. Make something outside your mind that doesn't rely on words so that multiple people can look at and understand it. (Think boxes, lines, and arrows.)

3. Ask confirming questions to check the understanding of others.

Creating a shared understanding is always worth the effort, especially when communicating with people ;)

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