Why You Should Stop Using Industry Buzzwords

It's time to give them a rest

A group of people next to a big loudspeaker with a no sign over it
It's OK to skip over industry buzzwords like 'ideate' and 'learnings.' iStock
Headshot of Shelly Palmer

Here is a list of buzzwords, biz speak and hipster droppings that should be banned from every business meeting forevermore. Does the following sound familiar?

Client: Our Big Data Rock Star ideated a cloud-based, scalable, native programmatic tool set that produced excellent learnings.

Consultant: Well, it sounds like he took it to the next level … efforting 110% to craft a best practices, robust solution you can leverage and it’s clearly out of the box thinking … but maybe you shouldn’t try to boil the ocean … it’s got a lot of moving parts and I’m not sure it’s something you want to take ownership of. You might be accused of punching the puppy, so the optics are all wrong. We should probably put this in the parking lot.

If you don’t like these phrases strung together, why use them individually?

Banned words (in no particular order)

We hacked it – Just say, “Figured it out.” Unless you are under investigation by the FBI, NSA, or any of the other 15 national security agencies, you’re not a hacker. Not even close.

Paradigm shift – Do you mean there is a new archetype or an outstandingly clear example of a shift from the original pattern or model of “All things of the same type are representations or copies?” If not, it’s just “something new.”

Game changer – Did that person or thing dramatically change the business? If not, try “significant,” “nontrivial,” “interesting,” “impactful,” “meaningful” or anything else. Let’s not “gamify” business.

Disrupt ourselves – Try “innovation,” “transformation” or just simply “change.” All are great words to describe another overused, but more accurate phrase, “Adapt, or die!”

Hockey stick – Really? A hockey stick? We are living in the age of exponentialism. Everything is changing exponentially every day. We’re somewhere on the blade of the hockey stick; we passed the “stick” part about 5,000 years ago. While we’re on the subject, stop drawing the curve in the air with your hands when you say it—it drives me crazy.

Out of the box – Just say, “We have escaped our Luddite boundaries and evolved our thinking beyond the rectangular indications on the org chart.” What? You think that sounds stupid? It does sound stupid, but it’s 50 times more interesting than “out of the box.”

Monetize – I want a $5 premium on my usual $20 fine for using banned words the next time you say “monetize.” “How we make money!” “Make bank.” “Bring home the bacon.” “Cake up.” “Chase paper.” “Hustle.” “Rake it in.” “Stack papers.” “Bilk the masses out of their hard-earned cash.” Anything but “monetize.”

Back by popular demand

Learnings – I learned, we learned, he/she/it learned—it’s the easiest verb to conjugate in the English language. You should also stop using “efforting.” See the aforementioned “learnings.”

Ideate – People who use “ideate” clearly have no idea about the process of ideation. It should cost you $20 every time you get the idea to say it.

Rock star – There are no rock stars in any profession other than rock music. Rappers don’t call themselves rock stars. Neither do EDM, country, soul, R&B, jazz or even folk stars. Why on earth would anyone who doesn’t play rock for a living think it’s OK to call someone in business a rock star? When you can jump across the stage and land on your knees while playing a Bb7#9 chord, screaming the lyrics (on key) with pyrotechnics exploding all around you in front of 20,000 adoring fans, you’re a rock star. If you’re great at media buying or human resources … well, you get my point.

@shellypalmer Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on machine learning and data-driven decision-making.
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