There will always be business buzzwords. Some of them have longevity while others only get 15 minutes of fame. They range from weird terms like “blitzscaling” to those that create uncomfortable visual imagery like “opening the kimono.” Some even find new ways of saying the same thing.
Many entrepreneurs themselves are advocating that we eliminate them from our vocabularies both when we communicate on social media and every day at work. Some actually speak out in defense of buzzwords and why they do have some value.
I have waged my own battle against buzzwords, arguing that we sound funny when we say things like, “let’s harness the organic process.” We also miss opportunities to resonate and connect with people when we don’t speak in plain language. At the root of every buzzword, though, there is a kernel of good intention. There is an attempt to say something in a way that stands out from the rest to get us focused, motivated, or inspired.
How do we keep those good intentions and get rid of the rest of the annoying buzz? Here are six buzzwords where we can do just that:
1. Paradigm shift
This is about thinking completely differently about how we look at our world (or our business). The problem is that the term has become overused. Recently, I heard it mentioned when referring to a moderate process change.
By becoming the boy who cried paradigm shift, we’ve taken away its impact when we really need it – during real transformation. So let’s dump paradigm shifts for now and simply tell people that we are going to be looking at our businesses in entirely different ways. They’ll know what we mean.
2. People adoption
This seems to be the new term that is supplanting an old term most of us knew: “change management.” Just when people are starting to get the idea of what managing change really means, we re-brand it.
I’m wondering if we need a change management effort to help manage the change of a new term for change management. Whereas the new term is helpful in highlighting that we should be working to help people adopt new ways versus just helping them manage through the change, maybe we can just say that.
3. Early and late adopters
If we find ourselves in the “early adopters” group, we generally feel awesome about ourselves as being on the cutting edge. Conversely, if we find ourselves in the “late adopters” group, we feel like the losers holding everyone else back who have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the party.
There are important upsides and downsides to both early and late adopters. Let’s get rid of the early and late terminology and just talk about what we can learn from people who get on board at different times.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times that we feel compelled to equate structural interdependencies and cascading impacts in the business world to biological systems and their fragility. Environmentalists would have never imagined this happening.
The visual image actually makes sense as a way of helping people see that what I do over here in finance does impact what my friend does over there in sales. But it just gets a little too “Bio-Dome” for most, which then distracts us from its good intended purpose. Let’s just stress how interdependent everything in business really is and work to show people how everything connects.
The pivot used to simply be one of the fundamentals of basketball. Now it is the new way of talking about critical shifting points across lots of different areas from business strategy to careers.
I almost could have jumped on this one until I started hearing people overuse it in the most mundane of places, including talking about “pivoting to the next meeting topic.” Let’s reserve talks of pivots to the really meaningful areas. That just might actually be at the low post in a basketball game.
6. Re-invent & re-imagine
I recently saw an advertisement for re-imagined motor oil. It felt a little forced considering that there is a very small chance I’d go home and tell my wife that I bought this particular motor oil because they had re-imagined it. She might then suggest I wasn’t getting enough sleep. It was one of a growing number of products being branded as re-imagined or re-invented.
Everything should be subject to new ways of thinking. That’s what we are really trying to say. That’s a great mindset to have and one worth telling people as often as we can.
So let’s find ways to use plain language to get at the core of what these buzzwords are trying to convey. Maybe we can create buzz without the annoying part.