Business talk

Many people working in large companies speak business-buzzwords as a second language. Business language is full of pretty meaningless words. I Don’t Understand What Anyone Is Saying Anymore article tells that the language of internet business models has made the problem even worse. There are several strains of this epidemic: We have forgotten how to use the real names of real things, acronymitis, and Meaningless Expressions (like “Our goal is to exceed the customer’s expectation”). This would all be funny if it weren’t true. Observe it, deconstruct it, and appreciate just how ridiculous most business conversation has become.

Check out this brilliant Web Economy Bullshit Generator page. It generates random bullshit text based on the often used words in business language. And most of the material it generates look something you would expect from IT executives and their speechwriters (those are randomly generated with Web Economy Bullshit Generator):

“scale viral web services”
“integrate holistic mindshare”
“transform back-end solutions”
“incentivize revolutionary portals”
“synergize out-of-the-box platforms”
“enhance world-class schemas”
“aggregate revolutionary paradigms”
“enable cross-media relationships”

How to talk like a CIO article tries to tell how do CIOs talk, and what do they talk about, and why they do it like they do it. It sometimes makes sense to analyze the speaking and comportment styles of the people who’ve already climbed the corporate ladder if you want to do the same.

The Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon article tells that the stupid business talk is longer solely the province of consultants, investors and business-school types, this annoying gobbledygook has mesmerized the rank and file around the globe. The next time you feel the need to reach out, touch base, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or join a tiger team, by all means do it. Just don’t say you’re doing it. If you have to ask why, chances are you’ve fallen under the poisonous spell of business jargon. Jargon masks real meaning. The Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon article has a cache of expressions to assiduously avoid (if you look out you will see those used way too many times in business documents and press releases).

Is Innovation the Most Abused Word In Business? article tells that most of what is called innovation today is mere distraction, according to a paper by economist Robert Gordon. Innovation is the most abused word in tech. The iPad is about as innovative as the toaster. You can still read books without an iPad, and you can still toast bread without a toaster. True innovation radically alters the way we interact with the world. But in tech, every little thing is called “innovative.” If you were to believe business grads then “innovation” includes their “ideas” along the lines of “a website like *only better*” or “that thing which everyone is already doing but which I think is my neat new idea” Whether or not the word “innovation” has become the most abused word in the business context, that remains to be seen. “Innovation” itself has already been abused by the patent trolls.

Using stories to catch ‘smart-talk’ article tells that smart-talk is information without understanding, theory without practice – ‘all mouth and no trousers’, as the old aphorism puts it. It’s all too common amongst would-be ‘experts’ – and likewise amongst ‘rising stars’ in management and elsewhere. He looks the part; he knows all the right buzzwords; he can quote chapter-and-verse from all the best-known pundits and practitioners. But is it all just empty ‘smart-talk’? Even if unintentional on their part, people who indulge in smart-talk can be genuinely dangerous. They’ll seem plausible enough at first, but in reality they’ll often know just enough to get everyone into real trouble, but not enough to get out of it again. Smart-talk is the bane of most business – and probably of most communities too. So what can we do to catch it?

457 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why People Dislike Really Smart Leaders
    https://science.slashdot.org/story/18/01/18/2327204/why-people-dislike-really-smart-leaders?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Slashdot%2Fslashdot%2Fto+%28%28Title%29Slashdot+%28rdf%29%29

    Intelligence makes for better leaders — from undergraduates to executives to presidents — according to multiple studies. It certainly makes sense that handling a market shift or legislative logjam requires cognitive oomph. But new research on leadership suggests that, at a certain point, having a higher IQ stops helping and starts hurting. The researchers looked at 379 male and female business leaders in 30 countries, across fields that included banking, retail and technology.

    The ratings peaked at an IQ of around 120, which is higher than roughly 80 percent of office workers. Beyond that, the ratings declined.

    Why People Dislike Really Smart Leaders
    Those with an IQ above 120 are perceived as less effective, regardless of actual performance
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-dislike-really-smart-leaders/

    Intelligence makes for better leaders—from undergraduates to executives to presidents—according to multiple studies. It certainly makes sense that handling a market shift or legislative logjam requires cognitive oomph. But new research on leadership suggests that, at a certain point, having a higher IQ stops helping and starts hurting.

    Although previous research has shown that groups with smarter leaders perform better by objective measures, some studies have hinted that followers might subjectively view leaders with stratospheric intellect as less effective. Decades ago Dean Simonton, a psychologist the University of California, Davis, proposed that brilliant leaders’ words may simply go over people’s heads, their solutions could be more complicated to implement and followers might find it harder to relate to them. Now Simonton and two colleagues have finally tested that idea, publishing their results in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Incentives, Metrics, and Their Unintended Consequences
    https://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1332870

    For every system, there is a workaround or dirty little trick that people figure out and exploit.

    I’ve always been leery of incentives. By that, I mean extra compensation or benefits for workers, executives, or even consumers. Specifically, to narrow programs that companies adopt to obtain sales or profits beyond the expected. Why? Because they cause perverse behavior.

    One of the most common examples is the sales incentive. The thinking is that salespeople need extra “mojo” or “get-up-and-go” to find, engage, and close sales. This extra compensation is based on targets for product sales in their territory. Companies can’t survive and grow without these sales. The saying is that everything starts with the sale.

    Most employees will see right away how to “game” the incentive program. This is natural. Much of this thinking is in line with what is intended. But other outcomes lead to unintended consequences, which only come to light down the road.

    When does the salesperson get paid for this sale? On receipt of the purchase order? On payment of the order after it ships? I have found that there is great pressure from sales to get paid as early as possible. Most want commissions on signing of the purchase order. They feel that they have done their job and it is up to the rest of the company to fulfill the product shipment. Sounds logical. But the effect is to grow dissension between the salesperson and either finance or engineering/manufacturing.

    No salesperson wants to wait. Again, pressure comes toward finance to pay commissions because it is not the salesperson’s fault that it is taking so long for the company to ship the products.

    Unintended outcomes
    If the customer rejects the product and the salesperson has already been paid, it sets up a great deal of bad feelings for all involved. Was the product oversold as to what it would do? Who takes the blame? Does the commission get returned?

    Smaller companies, especially high-tech startups, are more prone to sales commission issues. They need the sales badly, agreements are many times not even spelled out clearly, and credit issues are not thrashed out. All involved want the best for all concerned, but seldom does it not run into thorny issues.

    Essentially, Wells offered cash incentives for their sales and branch employees when they sold new accounts to individuals. Employees figured out how to set up new accounts and get compensated without the customer knowing that this had been done!

    The upshot for Wells was not pretty. Customers left the bank, management and employees that were involved at the top and throughout the bank were fired, the company took major write-downs (losses), and the stock price is still suffering after years. All due to this poorly thought-out sales incentive program.

    It’s not only sales

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Newsflash! Faking it until you make it is illegal in Silicon Valley: Biz boss pleads guilty
    Startup CEO admits he lied about education, wealth
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/06/wrkriot_isaac_choi_guilty/

    It turns out bullshitting your way to fame and fortune is illegal in California’s playground of tech startups, rather than a viable business model. Who knew?

    The former CEO and founder of defunct Silicon Valley upstart WrkRiot has pleaded guilty to defrauding and lying to his firm’s former employees.

    According to Uncle Sam’s prosecutors, he admitted that he hadn’t attended business school, had never been employed by a financial company, and inflated his net worth.

    He also admitted to having emailed several employees fake wire transfer notices in an effort to convince them they had been paid and to remain with the struggling company.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Here’s What Happens to a Startup After a Sexual Harassment Scandal
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-12/here-s-what-happens-to-a-startup-after-a-sexual-harassment-scandal

    BetterWorks, a Silicon Valley company that makes HR software, can’t seem to move past its own HR crises.

    BetterWorks Systems Inc. isn’t a well-known name in Silicon Valley, but the startup achieved a moment of infamy last year that it hasn’t been able to shake. A former employee sued the company in July, claiming the chief executive officer sexually harassed and assaulted her and that management failed to take proper disciplinary action. The allegations were levied as the #MeToo movement was mushrooming, and the fallout at BetterWorks was widespread.

    Kris Duggan, the 43-year-old CEO, has disputed the allegations but resigned from the company he co-founded. Fundraising efforts were derailed. A dozen customers severed business relationships with the startup, which makes human-resources software. The events also torpedoed plans by Penguin Random House to publish a book co-written by Duggan and John Doerr, a prominent venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a director at BetterWorks.

    BetterWorks has been trying to resolve the scandal and move on.

    More businesses are likely to face claims of sexism and harassment as women feel empowered to speak out, said Pamela Mason, whose company provides insurance against such lawsuits for hundreds of startups and about 100 venture capital firms. “As the entire #MeToo movement has grown, my clients have this more and more on their radar screen,” she said.

    Before the lawsuit last summer, BetterWorks was preparing to raise as much as $40 million from investors, nearly doubling its funding

    The fundraising freeze was a real problem.

    About a dozen corporate customers abandoned BetterWorks software, citing claims made by Kim, people familiar with the matter said. That drove a 5 percent to 10 percent drop in annual recurring revenue, to $10 million.

    Fighting these cases can be expensive. In the technology epicenter of California, a loss in court means a company pays for the aggrieved party’s attorney fees in addition to whatever damages a judge sets. Even if a company wins the case, usually it’ll still be on the hook for its own legal costs. That’s why most settle. Some say it’s as high as 90 percent.

    NDAs, which almost always come as a condition of a settlement, can create a chilling effect for alleged victims, shielding bad actors who sometimes go on to repeat their behavior. Lawmakers in California, New York and Pennsylvania have introduced legislation in recent months to ban confidentiality provisions. “The way the system is set up now, it basically allows rich guys to buy their way out of bad behavior,”

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Goldman Sachs Says Curing Diseases May Not Be Economically Viable
    http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/goldman-sachs-says-curing-diseases-may-not-be-economically-valid/

    A leaked report has stated what many in the health industry have whispered privately; there is a lot less money in curing people than in long-term management of disease.

    Reply

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