Here’s an “out of the box” idea – buzzwords and business-speak can actually be valuable. The problem is that many people tend to immediately tune out anyone who chooses to use them. The vitriol is so intense 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 du jour 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 chose 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 & dialogue. You see, buzzwords are birthed from the necessity of human beings to simplify the complex…they are in fact very useful in describing, informing, and educating. It’s as if it has become more acceptable to bash users of buzzwords than to actually listen to what’s being said – this in my opinion is not healthy, nor is it productive.

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 what I just described, a particularly good one is the use of the phrase “social media.” A person could either take several minutes to explain the evolution of technologies, mediums, shift in content paradigms, engagement practices and market dynamics that came together to make the Internet a more valuable and efficient space, or they could just utilize “social media” 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.

Where most people get off track with the use of buzzwords is not understanding their audience. Communicating is about connecting, and if the words you choose to use don’t connect then you might as well be spitting into the wind. All great communicators use language that resonates with those to whom they are speaking. What I want you to understand is that buzzwords are not the issue – the inappropriate use of them is. This is a subtle yet important distinction lost upon many.

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.

Agree or disagree, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to share any buzzwords that happen to be pet-peeves…

Related Post: The Lost Art of Brevity


Mike Myatt
Mike Myatt

Mike Myatt is a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and their Boards of Directors. Widely regarded as America’s Top CEO Coach, he is recognized by Thinkers50 as a global authority on leadership. He is the bestselling author of Hacking Leadership (Wiley) and Leadership Matters… (OP), a Forbes leadership columnist, and is the Founder and Chairman at N2Growth.

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