BLOG: Changing Language can change all our futures…

BLOG: Changing Language can change all our futures…

21 July 2018

Straight 6 Design Director and Silverstone Technology Cluster ambassador Sally Povolotsky has a way with words which get results in business. So why can’t others, she asks?

“Having worked within an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), I spent the first few weeks / months tongue tied by abbreviations. There was even a spreadsheet on the intranet to explain the thousands and thousands of variations. Language in all aspects of business is so important – we all come from different backgrounds, experiences and sectors; reaching a common vocabulary is the key to success.

“Language goes further; apart from the fact it can build walls it can also break them down – the more open we are with our language, the more we can engage and transfer knowledge clearly and concisely.

“Over the past six months I have been delighted to be involved with the STC ACES SIG – there you go; any idea what that is!? The Silverstone Technology Cluster’s Autonomous, Connected, Electrified and Shared Special Interest Group.

“This group is dealing with so many parts of engineering and automotive language and abbreviations which are foreign to many involved, but by breaking down the myths, the sectors and engaging fully with the members of the group we are all gaining valuable insights from those who are sharing their industries in ‘plain English’.

“In fact I was missing at the inaugural ACES meeting at Silverstone Park recently as I was in South Korea for a client of mine, KWSP, on an Innovate Advanced Materials Mission, where suddenly I was thrown into a country I didn’t know and a language I couldn’t read. Yet, by being open, keeping my language and explanations of what I do simple, using images and examples to show what the engineering processes and abilities meant to industry I got on just as well as if speaking in my native tongue…

“For five days we travelled around meeting people face to face with the assistance of interpreters which we probably didn’t need as everyone had something in common – a willingness and a wanting to learn, to understand and share. Again, all it requires is to find a common ground that is beneficial to both parties sitting around the table…

“Certainly as the world of automotive changes then the importance of shared language is more important than ever. Ditto the opportunities to share ideas and techniques in advanced engineering, particularly with so many engineering and manufacturing companies having originally been formed to service the Internal Combustion Engine!

“So grab opportunities to network, describe and vocalise your industry, business, services and needs clearer than you ever have and talk to people you never normally would. You never know what you might learn.

“I was recently lucky enough to have introduced two companies to each other, Good Fabrications Ltd and Danecca Ltd – the first a low volume, high value manufacturing company behind many of the F1 teams on the grid offering exhaust and heat shielding services; the latter, battery design and electric vehicle powertrains. In the world of the past these two would never have met, but through an interesting collaboration they have discovered a way of utilising skills, technologies, materials and developed a business opportunity that will benefit them both. Language bought them together, a wanting to understand and a willingness to share… collaboration at its best!

“This change of attitude and educating each other doesn’t just apply to what we do but also to how we work with each other. ‘A woman in a man’s world’ is often how friends talk about my career, but I don’t see it like that as I am seen burning my bra in the opposite direction.

“I am not ‘one of the guys’ but definitely ‘one of the gang’. I’ve never been a business woman but I am a business person. You may have thought we didn’t have the manpower, but I think what you were lacking in was resources. I am no-one’s right hand woman (or guy) but I am definitely a ‘go to’ person.

“I am not a #girlboss or any other neologism you want to brand women with. Language reinforces and reflects social norms, and if we want to ‘un-gender’ language then we need to start as leaders to take a giant linguistic leap and think about the words we speak, write and share.

“Our use of language in the workplace can have a negative impact as well as a positive one, especially when talking about gender or people with learning or physical disabilities. I have found the change in disabled toilet signage one of the biggest and fastest influences in changing perception over the past few months, developed by a young girl in Scotland. Grace launched ‘Grace’s sign’ which changes the toilet description from ‘Disabled’ to ‘Accessible Toilet’ as not all disabilities are seen while some are hidden and discriminated against.

“Why am I talking about toilets? Just change a single word… it can make all the difference, from ‘Disabled’ to ‘Accessible’ – so simple, yet hugely impactful.

“Don’t build barriers by Jenga-stacking abbreviations in whatever sector or industry you work within; say what you mean, don’t hide behind letters and dots! If you want to be seen as an open, collaborative and engaged business then make sure you have the words to back that up and a language throughout your organisation that reflects your way of working.

“Finally, if I can share one single piece of uncomplicated language then it was taught to me at an early age, so make sure you grab it tight and embrace it in your everyday life: ‘K.I.S.S’ (keep it simple stupid!)

About Sally Povolotsky
Sally Povolotsky is a Director of Oxfordshire based company Straight 6 Design, an automotive business & design consultancy. After working in the automotive aftermarket and accessories sector, Sally progressed through from product development, marketing, communications and PR into operations, planning, strategy and commercial management. She often describes her engineering experience by ‘Osmosis’ after studying physiology at university. Straight 6 Design’s mission is ‘in-line thinking’, keep business planning and strategy simple and put maximum effort into innovation, cooperation and embracing the benefits of being flexible and agile. Sally is also a committee member of the Silverstone Technology Cluster’s Autonomous, Electrified, Connected Shared special interest group.