Talking the talk
The football industry is going through a period of change in which establishing joined-up football services off the pitch is a key strategic goal and often a major logistical challenge. To be able to succeed in this respect and introduce the new ideas that are central to its advancement requires a certain bravery on the part of those guiding the project. Without this courage there will inevitably be difficulties when old ideas are brought into direct conflict with the new. At best this situation leads to a simple and temporary misunderstanding; at worst it invokes open hostility and the rejection of potentially important work.
It is hardly novel to say that communication is key to processes such as these, and yet the tools that enable an exchange of ideas in an accurate and succinct manner are often underdeveloped. We are not talking about a stubborn reliance on outdated technology but something more fundamental — the basic concepts and language we use when talking about our aims.
A potential approach is to develop an internal vernacular around certain topics (or at least foster the conditions for this to occur). Establishing a simple set of words or phrases that describe the most common issues or those that are most fundamental to a task can provide the broad references needed to help bridge the gap between old and new. For example, when attempting to discuss a broad concept like the creativity of a player, having a way to explicitly describe the various aspects that avoids jargon can help everyone frame what is being discussed. Bracketing the type of play that involves receiving the ball high up the pitch and playing a forward pass as Type X play, rather than defining it by the various metrics that might have been used to measure it, helps quickly convey a specific context. With that established, we can then focus on the finer details of the discussion.
Clearly this is not a quick and easy solution and would require a committed uptake. However, such an approach need not be a complete reinvention of language; many of us already use this idea casually. If a more formal focus is first given to establishing this common language it can also help set the culture of organisations. The approach is flexible and will by definition be suited to the specific demands of our task. Crucially, if successful it can also shift attention to broader strategic goals rather than short-term problem solving.