Re: Abbreviations / Acronyms - do they hinder a knowledge sharing environment? #communications

Stephen Bounds

Hi Lee,

Based on my involvement in supporting a number of jargon-heavy groups over the years (to the point of using terms like "Section 130Z cases") I would observe that language observes the trade-off:

Unambiguous, Concise, Wide audience -- pick two.

If the intents of your groups are to facilitate "in-discussion" then jargon is fine. If the point is to service outsiders, or to break down silos, then you've got to either got to establish rules of etiquette or have facilitators/moderators who do the boundary-spanning.

Sometimes establishing two groups, ie "x" and "x-support" can make it clearer when jargon is acceptable or not.

-- Stephen.

Stephen Bounds
Director & Principal Consultant
knowquestion Pty Ltd
E: sb@...
M: 0401 829 096

On 30/09/2014 6:53 AM, Lee Romero pekadad@... [sikmleaders] wrote:
Hi all - Here's a question for the community of knowledge management
professionals here - does the use (or perhaps over-use) of abbreviations
and/or acronyms in an organization encourage information silos and
discourage knowledge sharing?

I have the good fortune of working with our community leader here - Stan
Garfield - and one thing that Stan provides on a regular basis to our
knowledge management community is a report of new discussion groups in
our enterprise social networking tool. Very frequently, when I look
over the list of new groups, I see a LOT of groups using a LOT of
abbreviations in their names. To the point where I (as a relatively
seasoned employee at Deloitte) don't know what they mean.

Placing myself in the position of a new hire, my reaction was that it
could be very discouraging to someone trying to find the "right" group
they might want to join or in which they want to pose a question.

Similarly, in my own position, I spend a good amount of time reviewing
search query logs and I can see a lot of use of abbreviations there.

Also, I know in meetings when people start using acronyms it can (and
often does) immediately create a challenging discussion. The vibe is
something like, "I'll use an abbreviation that most people don't know so
I sound smart", while on the other side of the conversation there is
hesitance to ask what it means because the person who says, "What does
XYZ mean?" can easily feel like they are exposing their ignorance (which
no one wants to do). I've come out of meetings where I can be sure
someone didn't follow the discussion because they didn't know what an
abbreviation meant but they didn't want to ask.

*My question* - do you have a sense that heavy reliance on the use of
acronyms presents a challenging environment in which to really encourage
knowledge sharing? Does it seem like it encourages silos?

On the positive side of things, I know that this kind of community lingo
can encourage a feeling of connectedness - which can increase engagement
with the community. Is that more valuable?

Are there mitigating approaches you've used to improve this?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Lee Romero

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