Fancy New Words Over-Complicate Things

After spending nearly two decades in or connected to the nonprofit sector, there are topics that are still being discussed “ad nauseam:” Board governance, fundraising, evaluation, etc. With all of the focus on innovation in recent years, one would have thought that we might have found some solutions to address these ever-present challenges. But, no.

I was thinking about this over the weekend when I read, “Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector.” I’ll admit that I rolled my eyes as I clicked on the link to learn about one of the latest “trends” occurring in the nonprofit sector. “Design thinking” includes developing deep insights about human needs, developing multiple solutions, sharing prototypes with stakeholders and funders, soliciting support, and reducing resistance to change. I’ve completed several of these steps in various projects, but I’ve never called it design thinking – nor will I call it that going forward. I don’t feel compelled to label my work with a fancy name just so that I can be on the cutting edge, especially if I and others have been doing it for quite some time.

I was reminded of this recently when I was representing a client at a meeting. I was talking about the project, and referenced, “ideation and evaluation and co-creation.” A gentleman in the room raised his hand and asked, “Can you tell us what that means?” I thought about it for a second, chuckled, and replied, “It’s basically a group that does some brainstorming and creates a solution based on the data that they have.” Everyone in the room laughed. And while the work is a bit more complex than that, it was a good reminder that sometimes we make things sound more complicated than they really are!

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