Thursday, February 12, 2009

Business Speak. Blech.

Dear Future Business Leaders of America:


So I'm trying to do a homework assignment and realize I have absolutely no idea what the professor is talking about. I hate business speak. (Which I mostly am spared from by taking so much finance/accounting here at Booth). I hate business metaphors and cliches. (Most of which revolve around sports or war, neither of which I am particularly interested nor fluent in.)

I understand that sometimes lingo is useful and can be a time saver but most of the time it (a) masks sloppy thinking/ignorance, (b) is fantastically boring and (c) completely obscures the topic at hand.

Deliverables. Granularity (a favorite one on earnings calls). Drill down. Value Proposition. Migration path. Huddle. (It's hard for me to draw up a proper list because I try to block them from my memory.) You know what I'm talking about.

Bah humbug.

Most of my professors are perfectly understandable but I took a course with one fellow who delivered lectures so riddled with sports metaphors and strange syntax that I had absolutely no idea what he was saying 80% of the time. (Also not helped by the fact that he seemed to have no idea what he was saying 70% of the time.) And the strategy classes seem to be the worst actually.

Actually speaking English forces you to think about what you are saying (rather than repeating the same cute phrase everyone else seems to use in the situation at hand) and enables your listener to understand you. It's a win-win situation ... ;)

[Edited: apparently this is "corporatese". According to Wikipedia "Corporatese is characterised by often-unwieldy elaborations of more common-or-garden English phrases and serves to dramatise or conceal the real meaning of what is being said. It can often be rich in cliche."]


Brent said...

I'm a reporter at Columbia News Service, a wire service at Columbia Journalism School. I'm writing a piece on life in business school and find your blog fascinating. Would you be willing to chat with me briefly on the phone? Sorry for the comment, but I can't figure out how else to contact you.

-Brent Lang

Deadhedge said...

I was in a class where the professor said, "We are going to get beyond the cliches here. We are really going to drill down, peel back the onion, and kick the tires here."

My new favorite cliche is adding "stream" to everything. Income stream, work stream, etc. It reminds me of someone who has to go to the bathroom.

MaybeMBA said...

Ha. Ok, that definitely wins best business speak quote ever.

HairTwirler said...

My Corporate Strategy professor has banned the "S" word and most other business speak. It's delightfully refreshing!

Palo Alto for a While said...

nice blog! first time here and will be back.