Today’s rant is going to be short and sweet, but contrarian and politically incorrect as usual. Buzzwords and Business-Speak…it’s so difficult to spend even a few minutes in conversation without hearing a litany of the most popular catch-phrases, that many have taken to trivializing anyone who utters these buzzwords as an incompetent, uneducated, and completely inferior corporate citizen. While you may find it hard to believe, I don’t have anything against buzzwords, techno-jargon, colloquialisms, acronyms and other forms of business-speak with the following caveat…that they are used in context, and by someone who possesses an underlying knowledge of what the phrase de jure actually means. I know that for many of you, what I’ve just espoused is nothing short of sacrilege, but I encourage you to read the text that follows as I think I can actually make the business case for becoming accepting of the use of buzzwords and business-speak…
While I doubt too many of my academic followers made it past the opening paragraph, for those who did decide to endure, I want you to know that I’m not advocating for the degradation and demise of the English language with useless, watered-down business slang. However, I am very much in support of adding value, increasing clarity, and infusing brevity into our communications and dialogue. You see, buzzwords are birthed from the necessity of human beings to simplify the complex…they are in fact useful in describing, informing, and educating.
I have found that business-speak can be particularly beneficial in using just a few words to explain situations, scenarios, processes, trends, attitudes and any number of other ethereal and esoteric concepts that might have otherwise needed several sentences or paragraphs to describe. While I could cite many examples of this, a particularly good one is the use of the phrase “Web 2.0.” A person could either take several minutes to explain the evolution of technologies, mediums, shift in content paradigms, and market dynamics that came together to make the Internet a more valuable and efficient space, or they could just utilize Web 2.o as a descriptive aid to make the connection. The latter is much more efficient than the former.
It is the desire for this type of increased efficiency in our communications that creates the irony of needing to expand the total number of words contained in the dictionary in order to simplify our communications, and reduce the number of words we actually use. In fact, look no further than the current business innovations to seek validation for my assertions. Tools like email, instant messaging, texting, blogging and micro-blogging are all examples of shortening our communications to leverage speed and time to our advantage.
Bottom line…While I can appreciate eloquent and detailed word pictures, they are not always needed. Not everyone who allows a buzzword to cross their lips is evil…they may just be pressed for time, and/or desire to be efficient in their communications. So I would ask that rather than dismiss someone solely on their use of buzzwords and business-speak, you first evaluate whether said use added value, was contextually appropriate, or whether the instance was born out of laziness or a lack of substance.
Related Post: Clarity Matters