Insight article


I never cease to be amazed by some of the language that comes out of companies today. And I don’t mean cursing and swearing. It’s the jargon that people use.

OK, some of it comes naturally, is universal, and is the quickest way to make reference to a particular method or process used by all. KPI’s for example – try creating a simple, jargon-free phrase to explain what they’re all about! But how often do you see the word ‘key’ thrown into presentations, willy nilly, as if it is going to make the whole sentence that much more meaningful. Not that the word ‘key’ isn’t very useful – just use it sparingly! My question (sorry, the key rationale for making this point) is, what on earth drives people to use ten words when one will do? You know who you are. Why refer to, say, ‘core capabilities’ when most humans will instantly understand the word ’skills’? Is it because it makes them feel more important / intelligent / senior / powerful / part of the inner corporate sanctum? Or is it just a strategy to buy time while they think of what they’re going to say next? Maybe they just like to hear the sound of their own voice and use jargon to make their mark – a kind of territorial mechanism. Oops, nearly fell into it myself there.

I know people whose love of using jargon and overly complicated language just to make a simple point make you want to lay your head on the table and bang it until you reach oblivion. The reality is that most of us politely nod and smile while our eyes glaze over, glance sideways at our watches and we start thinking about what kind of sandwich we’re going to get for lunch. What it does, in fact, is render that person extremely dull and boring and sends what is actually quite important and useful information on a bypass around the ears/brain and diverts it straight over the head. It is also a huge time-waster.

I hope I’m not being a hypocrite. That’s why we advocate storytelling, because it’s difficult to bring corporate jargon into simple, human experiences which are, in fact, what make us sit up and listen. You might like to buy the book ‘Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide. Great stocking filler for, oh, too many people I care to mention…

Nailia Tasseel