Do you think that Thomas Alva Edison ever told his managers to “think outside the box”?
Or if Henry Ford informed his his employees they’ve been “tasked” to “empower” themselves so that customers will “buy in” to whatever the company is selling?
Yes, the list of clichés and perversions of the English language fester in the business and corporate world and that’s why Lucy Kellaway is one of my favorite columnists.
She writes for the Financial Times, based out of London, and has been conducting a one-woman crusade against the gobbledygook clogging the rhetorical machinery while calling for a return to plain speaking.
She posts a column at the beginning of each year called the Golden Flannel Awards where she lists the worst examples of BS produced by assorted CEOs and managers across the globe.
Some of the cow patties for 2012?
An analyst at an international financial group based out of India couldn’t bring himself to say his company lost money in one of its sectors. Instead, it “de-grew by 23.3 per cent.”
Try using that one on your spouse:
“Did you really lose $5,000 of our money when you went to Las Vegas?!”
“No, honey. Our savings just de-grew by that amount.”
Or this one from CitiGroup, where its leaders brag that now the banking and investment firm will now offer “client-centric advice.” Uh.. isn’t the entire idea of an investment firm based on clients? As Kellaway writes, “Which lets the cat out of the bag that the advice it used to offer was otherwise. Citi-centric, perhaps.”
Here’s another one, from CitiBank. Instead of firing 1,100 employees, it said in a news release that it was merely “optimizing the customer footprint across geographies.”
What’s just as annoying has been the creation of new words to try to puff up companies and their executives.
Kellaway points to firms in 2012 that declared they employ “solutioneering” while showing how “creovative” they are in this “phygital™” world we live in. (Yes, the evil inventor of that word has trademarked it.)
And then there’s the woman at an Australian consulting firm whose job description is to “to turn people into innovation dynamos.”
And her job title? Head Inventiologist.
Not even Edison had that much self-regard.
Click here to read Kellaway’s column. Keep up the good fight, Lucy.