Communicating is tough

Posted by  Mark Schenk —May 28, 2007
Filed in Communication

We all know how tough it can be to get our message across at times. I vividly remember an occasion several years where I had a very heated argument in front of a whiteboard, fighting for access to the ‘pen of power’, for about half a day with a colleague (who I respected and had been working closely with for several years). We finally realised that the conflict was caused by a misinterpretation of a word I had used in a document – and also realised we were in a state of ‘violent agreement’. There were some valuable lessons from the ‘debate’ and we had a deeper understanding of each other’s views and assumptions as a result. But, boy was it hard! And frustrating for the both of us.

A recent post to the actKM list by Neil Lynch highlights one of the reasons such miscommunication is commonplace:

A couple of years back, research conducted by Craig McDonald (now at the University of Canberra) looked in detail at 1700 terms he identified as being in use in viticulture – by industry, by academics teaching it, by librarians classifying resources for use by students, etc. The results showed there were just 6 (!!) terms that were used consistantly across the sub-domains within viticulture.

Mark Schenk About  Mark Schenk

Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on:


  1. That’s reassuring.
    I’ve been working on and off for over ten years on an industry data model initiative (we didn’t call it KM in the days when we started). Ee collected 80,000 distinct terms very quickly, and expected it to grow to something like 250,000, but years later we had agreed definitions for under 20,000 of them !
    It’s led me to a view that “definition” is a red-herring and that usage and context are the real key.

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