Swaying To The Tune Of The Latest Catchphrases In Town

By

Nina Ti

24-04-2015

5 min read

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Have you ever stood at a conference or meeting, and listened to how “paradigms” of “sustainability” can “leverage” on “synergistic strategies”?

You may very well have had your ears punished in a very pleasant way.

Buzzwords can be powerful. Buzzwords in corporate boardrooms have a way of forcing you in, or out of your daydream, depending on your threshold level.

They are often used by industry experts and some of your brighter colleagues to illustrate concepts that are currently trending or to communicate a groundbreaking idea with fewer words.

According to Forbes.com, catchphrases and clichés are used in modern work conversations because these big words really do save time and energy.

Industry jargon is meant to serve as shorthand for more complex concepts that would otherwise stretch a two-minute speech to half an hour. So, consider yourself lucky.

In a survey of over 1,000 companies, executives selected these following 25 buzzwords as the most overused in human resources, finance and marketing:

  • “At the end of the day”
    – something that you say before you give the most important fact of a situation.
    Of course I’ll listen to what she has to say but at the end of the day, its my decision.
  •  

  • “Thinking outside the box”
    – to think imaginatively using new ideas instead of traditional or expected ideas.
    Instead of doing things the same way each time and expecting a different result, why don’t you try thinking out of the box?
  •  

  • “Synergy”
    – the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately.
    Team work done in synergy can be very productive.
  •  

  • “Paradigm”
    – a model of something, or a very clear and typical example of something.
    Educators are hoping to produce a change in the current cultural paradigm.
  •  

  • “Metrics”
    – a set of numbers that give information about a particular process or activity.
    Do you have any metrics on the number of customer complaints received for this product?
  •  

  • “Take it offline”
    – a suggestion to discuss a particular matter after the meeting in private.
    If you want to pursue this matter with me, I would suggest we take it offline.
  •  

  • “Redeployed people”
    – to move employees to a different place or use them in a more effective way.
    The company has decided on cost-cutting measures, one of them is to redeploy people elsewhere.
  •  

  • “Circle back”
    – to turn and go back to the original focus of a discussion.
    We realised we had gone off-topic and had to circle back.
  •  

  • “Win-win”
    – denoting a situation in which each party benefits in some way.
    We are aiming for a win-win situation.
  •  

  • “Value-added”
    – an improvement or addition to a product or service that makes it worth more.
    The printer’s value-added USB drive makes it worth the extra cost.
  •  

  • “Get on the same page”
    – for two or more people to think in a similar way and to understand each other well.
    I can’t seem to get on with him – we’re just not getting on the same page.
  •  

  • “Customer-centric”
    – designed to keep customers happy by finding out what they want and dealing with their problems quickly.
    As part of its more customer-centric approach, the company now has a 24-hour helpline.
  •  

  • “Generation-X”
    – a way of referring to the group of people who were born in the 1960s and 1970s.
    Members of Generation-X are often portrayed as having no clear direction to their lives.
  •  

  • “Accountability management”
    – an ability to manage the responsibility for carrying out a defined set of duties or tasks, and for conforming with rules and standards applicable to their posts.
    There were furious criticisms of the apparent lack of accountability management in the finance department.
  •  

  • “Core competency”
    – a defining capability or advantage that distinguishes an enterprise from its competitors, or a person from his/her peers.
    We need to pinpoint our core competency in order to raise profit levels.
  •  

  • “Alignment”
    – an agreement between a group of people who want to work together because of shared interests and aims.
    We are hoping to form strong alignments within our business community.
  •  

  • “Incremental”
    – small changes.
    Changes in the newspaper are more incremental than radical.
  •  

  • “Leverage”
    – power to influence people and get the results you want.
    If we more sales managers in the area, we would have better leverage.
  •  

  • “Deep dive”
    – a technique to rapidly immerse a group or team into a situation for problem solving or idea creation. It is often used for brainstorming product or process development.
    We came out with a new rebranding for the company after doing a deep dive analysis.
  •  

  • “Forward-thinking”
    – thinking about, planning for, or considering the future, rather than just the present.
    More forward-thinking businesses have realised that corporate events are only worth the investment if they make a measurable difference.
  •  

  • “Let me get back to you”
    – a promise to revert with an answer.
    I don’t have the information you need right now. Let me get back to you.
  •  

  • “Employee engagement”
    – a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.
  •  

  • “Out of pocket”
    – money paid from personal funds.
    My doctor’s office refuses to bill insurance companies any more, so I was out of pocket for the entire payment.
  •  

  • “Pick your brain”
    – ask and question more.
    If you have a minute to spare, I’d like to pick your brain about these flowchart patterns.
  •  

  • “Dynamic”
    – forces or processes that produce change inside a group or system.
    The fight for the leadership role gave a fascinating insight into the group’s dynamics.

Source: Google.com, Urbandictionary.com, Dictionary.cambridge.org

Although buzzwords are sometimes annoying, we cannot escape the fact that they are a more efficient and preferred way to communicate, depending on the industry.

Marketers have their own language, so do code programmers, rocket scientists and even drug dealers.

When they are used for good, buzzwords become vocabulary that describes a common experience, keeping people together, or as it should be said, “aligned”.

Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and guru of innovation and growth, coined the word “disruptive innovation” in 1997 which has helped to continue and illuminate the discussion in the workplace, helping millions to share a common speech pattern.

However, when buzzwords are misused, or used as parlance in another industry, problems will arise. In his book Job-Hunting for Dummies, Max Messmer says, “Even though the terms you use may be clear to you, other people must understand them if you hope to communicate your point effectively. For instance, instead of saying “win-win”, explain why it was successful”.

Concluding thoughts

The pace of business is often faster than what we can anticipate. Therefore, there is often the feeling of pressure in the work environment to keep up. Do you sometimes feel that communicating with fewer words, means getting your opinions out more efficiently?

As business culture evolves, old catchphrases die out and new buzzwords are born. There will always be a bunch of new phrases around the corner, especially now that the next generation of internet-savvy young people, the Gen-Z, has entered the workforce with their social media lingo!

Hence, whichever way the wind blows, let us all try to “move forward”.

If you enjoyed this article, or have an anecdote to share on how buzzwords have affected your worklife, please email us at editor@leaderonomics.com or send us your comments in the comment box below. For more Thought of the Week articles, click here.

Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 25 April 2015

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