How Sailing Helps this UX Expert Align Business, Domain, and Software Pros 

The limits of my language are the limits of my mind.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

There is a principle of linguistics, called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, that claims people’s perceptions are relative to their spoken language – that the structure of a language greatly influences the modes of thought and behavior characteristic of the people who speak it. 

In his presentation at 2020 World IA Day Pittsburgh, our senior human-centered design expert, Jonathan H Brown, explores how the culture he grew up in affects his view of the world.  His presentation espouses the need for ensuring that – in any project – business people, software developers, designers, and other domain experts can understand the complexity of each other’s needs and processes through common language. 

Innovation is a Social Activity and so is Software Development 

Jonathan shared how Steve Jobs didn’t solve tough problems by just sitting by himself at his computer. He famously took walks with smart people to create innovation.  

Just like in sailing, it takes a group of aligned people with different skills to create a solution. This is illustrated by the 120B lines of code developed every year by 20M software developers. 

But, how can you work across functions and disciplines effectively? It takes ubiquitous language. 

Designers Can Help Align Language and Teams 

Jonathan illustrated this point by sharing a story of a recent client project where he asked attendees across functional areas, “How many products does this company sell?” Group one said 80. Group two said 600, and Group three said 80,000.  

The designers invented a model represented by a common language so everyone could have clarity and understanding as they collaborate and solve problems together. 

Today, designers are being asked more and more to bring forth an understanding of what the business “really does” and uncover the intricacies of the business.  

Ubiquitous to One Language - SDLC Partners

One Team: One Language 

What Jonathan presented at World IA Day Pittsburgh was that each group or domain is complex. Business processes have their terms. Software developers have their definitions. Users express their experiences through personal language.  

What is vital to ubiquitous language is that a common understanding can accelerate a project because it’s based on communication that is clear, specific, accurate, and inclusive. 

How Well Do Your Teams Understand Each Other and Your Business?

One of the unique aspects of SDLC Partners’ Human-Centered Design team is their ability to understand the complexities within and across your organization and translate those into a language and model that accelerates your teams’ solutions.

Jonathan Brown, Digital Architect

Jonathan is a Digital Architect at SDLC Partners, working at the intersection of systems architecture and interaction design. During his 25-year career in technology, he has led digital transformation for clients including Fortune 50 companies, integrated healthcare delivery networks, and the Department of Defense. Jonathan holds a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

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