Just came out of a strategy meeting with my hair hurting, teeth grinding, and a renewed appreciation for simplicity in language — and thought. Indeed, as Geoffrey James maintains, language can shape thought. That’s why “fuzzy language” leads to “fuzzy” thinking, he says.
James, a c
you habitually use fuzzy, ill-defined words crammed into long and convoluted sentences, you’re training your brain–and the brains of your team members–to think less clearly. Confusion is also contagious.
That may explain why I left the meeting in a daze. (Actually, that only explains part of my confusion. The rest was due to a surfeit of political posturing and an absence of new ideas. But I digress …)
In an effort to remove some of the ill-effects from this encounter — and in the always-noble pursuit of clear language and thinking — I offer up some of the newest inductees into the corporate buzz speak “Hall of Shame” below — courtesy of theofficelife.com.
And, just for fun, if you should find your mind numbing to the drone of corporate jargon at a future meeting, try making it a “win-win” with this Buzz Speak Bingo Card.
Actionable [adj.]: Originally a legal word referring to anything that affords grounds for a lawsuit. In business speak, it’ s anything on which action can be taken.
Bifurcate [v.]: An overly complex word that HR uses when splitting your position into two separate jobs. Feel free to reapply for either of them.
Biome, Ecosystem, or Ecosphere: Environment or market. “We just can’t justify full-time hires in today’s regulatory biome.”
Boiling the ocean [v.]: Attempting to do something with too broad a scope. This is generally in reference to a project or initiative to avoid. “The client is living a pipe dream; when are they going to stop trying to boil the ocean?”
Cadence [n.]: A far too poetic way to describe how often a scheduled event is repeated. “If we just hit the right cadence on our sprint meetings…”
Circle-back [v.]: To revisit an issue. “I’m heading to lunch now, but let’s circle-back Friday am.”
Curate [v.]: Adds a whiff of sophistication to any mundane selection process. “As Chief Social Media Jedi, you’ll be deeply involved in curating our Pinterest identity.”
Deep dive [n.]:An in-depth study.
Deploy [v.] Execute; release to the public. Makes the speaker feel like he’s planning D-Day instead of some insipid PR launch.
Dialogue [v.]: To have a conversation; talk. “Let’s dialogue later bout the Miller account.”
Drink from the fire hose [v.]: To be overwhelmed with information.
Drink the Kool-aid [v.]: To accept company policy without question. [An unfortunate reference to the Jim Jones mass suicide in Guyana.]
Drop-dead date [n.]: The REAL deadline. Missing it often means dire consequences.
Gatekeeper [n.]: A person who controls the flow of visitors and information to/from management. You should “do lunch” with this person.
Hard stop [n.]: The non-negotiable end of a meeting. Usually announced at the start. “Clients are visiting this afternoon so we have a hard stop at two.”
Ideation [n.]: An overused portmanteau of “idea” and “creation.” Psychologists have a legitimate use for this word. You probably don’t.
Lens [n.]: A point of view; a corporate microscope. “I want to make sure that we’re looking at this through the right lens.”
Level-set [v.]: To ensure that everyone is at the same ‘level’ of understanding. “You better level-set your team before you send them on-site.”
Leverage [v.]: To make use of a resource. (What’s wrong with “use”?)
Net-net [n.]: The verbally communicated summary of a lengthy event. “Just give me the net-net of your conversation with the client.”
Offline [adj.]: Used in business meetings to reference a more detailed discussion that won’t involve the whole group. “Let’s dialogue about these issues offline.”
Operationalize [v.]: To do. (Now was that so hard?)
Low-hanging fruit [n.]:Relatively simple problems that can be addressed with minimal effort.
Ping [n.]: To contact or notify. “Ping the boss about this one later.”
Put to bed [v.]: To conclude something. “We just need to put these last issues to bed.”
Pull up [v.]: Meet together later about an issue, just as a car pulls up alongside another car perhaps?
Rightsizing [v.]: A gentler way to refer to downsizing. Suggests that a round of layoffs is simply a labor surplus correction, rather than a symptom of deep financial problems.
Run it up the flagpole [exp.]: To find out what colleagues think of a new idea. This is roughly equivalent to the next entry – to “socialize” something.
Socialize [v.]: To facilitate group discussions about an issue. “Let’s give them time to socialize the new material with their teams.”
Speak to [v.]: To address. “Yield the floor, sir, and I will speak to your point!”
Swim lane [n.]: Field of responsibility. “Listen, client management just isn’t in my swim lane.”
Talk to [v.]: A self-important way of saying ‘talk about’. “I’m going to talk to the issues raised last week.”
Tasked [v.]: To be given an assignment. “I’ve been tasked with bringing coffee to the meeting.”
Value-add [exp.]: A typical biz speak reversal of ‘added value.’ “We have to evaluate the value-add of this activity before we drop any more money.”
Vision [n.]: The bold leadership direction that every manager claims, even if it changes every two weeks.
Win-win [n.]: A mutually beneficial arrangement for two parties. While the better negotiator is probably still at an advantage, both leave the table feeling great about it.