“Corporate Speak”: Updating the Buzzword Baedeker

Corporate buzzwords
Corporate buzzwords: Meaningless blather, signifying nothing.

All of us are familiar with them: jargon words and phrases that have become so overused, they’re nothing more than meaningless noise.

These are the so-called “descriptive” terms that are meant to add flavor and emphasis to a particular subject, but are more likely to make you want to roll your eyes – or maybe even reach for the nearest comfort bag.

Traditionally, the worst offenders have been high technology companies and other B-to-B firms when it comes buzzwords. But we’ve been seeing the phenomenon leech into consumer categories as well, such as automobiles and healthcare services.

Even worse, we’re now seeing a new generation of buzzwords coming to light, joining the veteran terms that have been plaguing us for years now.

Some of the old standbys are still overused today, unfortunately.  They include terms like:

  • Cutting-edge
  • Flexible
  • Next generation (or the too-cute variation NextGen)
  • Out-of-the-box
  • Partnering
  • Robust
  • Seamless
  • Solutions provider
  • Synergies
  • Toolbox
  • Turnkey
  • Value-added
  • World-class

Today, one may be more likely to encounter a crop of more contemporary-sounding – but equally obnoxious – phrases such as these:

  • Best-of-breed
  • Best practices
  • Core competency
  • Groundbreaking
  • Integrated
  • Mission-critical
  • Scalable
  • Thought leader

Much as we’d like for these buzzwords to just go away quietly, that’s hardly likely. And there’ll be plenty more new ones to come along in the future.

In fact, marketing strategist David Meerman Scott and others are already taking a stab at predicting tomorrow’s new buzz terms. You can view one such prediction here.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any buzz-cuts in the offing when it comes to lowering the level of “corporate noise” out there, however welcome that might be …

So if you can’t beat ’em … join ’em.  Are there any particularly irritating buzz terms you encounber that aren’t noted above?  Post a comment and let’s see what we can add to the list.

4 thoughts on ““Corporate Speak”: Updating the Buzzword Baedeker

  1. How about “sustainable” or “sustainability”?

    They are being used so frequently and businesses are trying stretch the meaning to morph things into a sustainability message that the words have truly lost impact.

    “Green” is another word that is being used and abused to the point it doesn’t mean anything at all anymore.

  2. I work with consultants, so I get the “latest and greatest” of all the buzz.

    Nonetheless, nothing I can give you can compete with the following gem, found on a forum for classical singers. Obviously, the singer in question had been temp-ing far too much in “buzzwordland.”

    Here it is, in its entirety:

    “I would stick around to facilitate this brainstorm, empower others, and leverage lessons learned to capture best practices, but I am going to be out of pocket. The guiding principle here is to remember that you can’t boil the ocean – there has to be some sort of impact and someone has to run the numbers to determine the ROI to justify taking it up a level. Go for the low hanging fruit and that will set the pace. Or at least, figure out what resources you have to put lipstick on the pig for now.

    This may involve a face time “come to Jesus” meeting, just to make sure that the proposal is bleeding edge and viable. Shifting such a paradigm, getting buy-in and getting others to drink the Kool-Aid is best demonstrated using a straw man model, you know to run the numbers and relate them back to core competencies for optimal organizational effectiveness and team building. Then you can tie it back to the bottom line. I use visuals like swim lanes to illustrate the process flows and assess all of the moving parts to see if the proposed full service solution is scalable and robust enough for the ecosystem, and to be sure it is in a marketable vertical space at a reasonable price point.

    I know what you mean about opening the kimono, there are so many information silos in the typical corporate culture. CYA and have all your ducks in a row, because you know, BOHICA – burning platform SNAFU, and that will kill the whole project (and your job), if it is not synergized. When in doubt, take it offline. Never let them see you sweat. Give 110% and document every deliverable and body of work produced. Work fast – the window of opportunity will close at quarter end.

    It is what it is. Got a hard stop now. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me for after action learnings and sunset reviews; let’s talk that.”

    (end of quote)

    Joel K.

  3. Some of my faves:

    Optics > the way a situation/strategy appears or might appear to the public.

    Aperture > perspective

    Bandwidth > corporate resources; e.g., The company doesn’t have the bandwidth to proceed with that project this quarter.

    Also, it has become commonplace to hear people (especially from the East Coast and Silicon Valley) begin a sentence with the conjunction “so.” It seems to have evolved to mean “Standby, I’m getting ready to give you my thoughts/opinion.” e.g., So… this is what’s going on with the economy:”

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