Those Business Buzzwords – Useful or Irritating?

Business, buzzwords, communicationIs there a business term that just grates on your nerves? Or is it when someone strings a few together and you realize that he/she has actually said nothing? For many of us, business buzzwords trigger this internal dialogue (although some of us are bold enough to say it out loud) that asks if the person is even speaking the common tongue so we can all know what he/she means.

Some buzzwords you probably wish you could forget

There are some ones that should probably be forgotten but haven’t been such as “low hanging fruit”, “circling back”, “put a pin in it” or “out of the box.” There are more. If you do business in the US, you’ve probably heard many of the common sporting references or analogies since these are common in American business language.

But what’s the current lingo?

Well, don’t worry because all of the old ones are remaining in circulation but there are some new ones to add to your list. Here are a few examples:

  • Innovative
  • Showrooming
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Contextual analytics
  • Digital native
  • B2B
  • Stickiness
  • Crowdfunding

There are more and Business News Daily has an interesting list of more buzzwords you may know and hear overused.

When does a word or term outlive it usefulness and cross over into white noise?

We hear certain business words or terms in many conversations and some of them fit the situation .Judith Shulevitz in her post on the New Republic declares that “disruptive” is no longer as meaningful or pertinent as it was. Her point is that “disruptive” is overused and too generalized at this point to really identify what is, well, disruptive to the status quo. She doesn’t say that certain things are not or cannot be disruptive but that everything that is counter-cultural, defiant or bold is termed disruptive. And she blames Clayton Christensen (worth reading her post to see how this fits) for not reining in everyone who started labeling all kinds of stuff as disruptive.

Creating a language of separation

Before you think you’re hip or cutting-edge (oh dear, is that one too?), are we creating a separate language or a way to shut others out? One thing to look at with buzzwords is that they are often idioms or encapsulated concepts. Many of us work in multi-cultural settings where there many be speakers of other languages. They may or may not be able apply critical thinking to your statements if they are spending the time trying to define what you are saying. Using buzzwords can reinforce a “class-system” that the in-crowd know what is being said but you are an outsider or, worse, nobody. There are power plays that contain a sycophantic or obstructive dynamic.

Buzzwords can be use for good or ill

When they are used for good, they become vocabulary that describes a common experience, a wished-for state or illustrating a concept. There is often the feeling of pressure in the work environment because the pace of business is often faster than the pace of any other facet of our lives. It is as if we can communicate with fewer words, we are getting our ideas or our opinions out more efficiently.

On the other hand, buzzwords can dumb down our messages and make us aim for soundbites rather than a well-thought out statement. They can obfuscate and interfere with developing trustworthy business relationships. This may foster a political (and likely dysfuntional) workplace in which people jockey for position or special treatment. It may even trigger investors to dismiss our venture because they think we don’t have anything different, marketable or worth their time and money.

Join us as we discuss buzzwords and how they are used in business on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, August 23rd at 5pm GMT/ 12pm ET / 9am PT.

What are the most current buzz words you have heard overused lately?

For our global members, what buzzwords do you hear in the your workplace?

Which of the current buzzwords do you find are overused?

When does using a buzzword help continue or illuminate the discussion in the workplace?

How do people use buzzwords in the context of power dynamics in a group setting?

 About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, small business coach and executive coach, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Those Business Buzzwords – Useful or Irritating?

  1. Being a naive English speaker, not native, some of the buzz on words is lost on me. (to me?)

    Indeed, close knowledge of cultural context may be required to discern the subtle nuances that color conversations meaningful. Yet, with more convo gone texting, more people can look up definitions and idioms in seconds, sometimes minutes, and stay in the loop. Or jump in when in verbal circles they couldn’t. The more we buzz away, the more people may tune out.

    Because it is up to the speaker / author to enable being understood – mind your buzzwords.

    • Bernd,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      We are in an interesting time where we can look up something in the moment. But, more importantly, communicating in the work environment does put the onus on all of us to find the words with the right nuance and clarity of message. When we buzz (use words that do not fit the situation or have become meaningless), we do risk being tuned out.

      By the way, you got it right with “lost on me”

      ~Elli

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