I’ve been practicing business law for nearly 30 years now and I’ve seen all sorts of buzzwords come and go over the years. Remember “TQM” (total quality management)? I didn’t think so. I try to avoid using this sort of worn-out jargon, but sometimes this stuff just pops out of my mouth unexpectedly, much to my embarrassment.
Here is a list of some of my least favorite business buzzwords, past and present, in no particular order, along with some thoughts on them:
• Skill Set. Why don’t you just say “skill” instead?
• Core Competency. Do you mean “what we are good at?”
• Incentivize. It’s not a verb, or even a word. Don’t use it. How about “motivate”?
• Wheelhouse, as in “that’s not in my wheelhouse,” meaning it’s not part of my skill set (oops, there I go again). You’ve never been in an actual wheelhouse and never will be, other than maybe as a tourist, so please find another way to say it.
• At the end of the day. Say “ultimately” instead.
• Bandwidth. This is a term that originally, and correctly, applied to signal processing and computing. Say “capacity” instead, please, if that’s what you mean.
• Silo, as in “she operates in a silo,” meaning alone, and without interacting as a team member. You’re not a farmer.
• Best of Breed. You’re not a dog or cat breeder.
• Thinking “outside the box.” Metaphor originally based on that cute little exercise about connecting nine dots with only four lines and then turned into a cliché by management consultants everywhere. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outside_the_box. So overused, don’t even get me started.
• Don’t even get me started. What you say when you’re too inarticulate to complete your thought.
• Solution. Thrown around ubiquitously for no apparent reason. It’s usually just another way to say “product” or “service.”
• Deep dive. Dive off of this.
• Deliverable. Has this really become a noun? Apparently.
• Take-away. Same thing.
• Ecosystem. Nature has one; you don’t, and neither does your business. Unless you’re Apple. Which you are not.
• Around, as in there are issues “around X.” “About” works better.
• Learnings, as in “the learnings from this experience are . . .” Even Microsoft Word, lame as it is, thinks this is not a word. Try saying “what we learned from this experience is . . .” It works better around normal people, trust me.
• To throw someone “under the bus.” Why did people start saying this? I will liteally throw someone under a bus the next time I hear it.
• Impactful. It’s not an adjective. It’s not even a word. See “incentivize” above.
• Out of Pocket. It used to mean that you were taking money “out of your pocket,” i.e., an actual monetary expense. Then people started using it to say “out of the office” or “unavailable” by which they really mean to say “I’m taking this opportunity to ignore you.” Try that instead.
• Runway. This word should be used for airplanes attempting takeoff or landing, and not for startups about to run out of money because of their “burn rate.”
• Run it up the flagpole. Means “I don’t have authority to make this decision, so let me talk to my superiors.” Just admit it.
• Sea Change. See above regarding “wheelhouse.”
• Tailwind. Meaning we’ve got some momentum. Are you a pilot, sailor, bicyclist or runner? If not, don’t use this word.
• Team Building. If you have to take your team an “off-site” to do this, it won’t work anyway.
• Value Add/Value added/Value Proposition. So 90s.
• Win-win. Needs no explanation.
• Eyeballs. These are what you use to see, not a unit of measurement. I know this is an old one, but it still makes me cringe.
• Stickiness. This just sounds disgusting.
• I’m just saying [at the end of a statement]. An overused placeholder. It doesn’t really mean anything.
• And of course, Synergy. Just shoot me.
I’m sure others have their own favorite examples. Feel free to add yours in the comments section!
- ‘Disrupt Big Data Entrepreneurs’: Buzzwords That Need to Die (news.dice.com)
- 10 words you need to stop using (campaignsworthsharing.com)
- 8 Content Marketing Terms in Need of a Performance Review (business2community.com)