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Not all business jargon is garbage
A mildly contrarian take on corporate language
After moving from academia to the business world, I was struck by the differences in the language people use. In the ivory towers of academic economics, you would constantly hear things like “at the margin”, “adverse selection”, and “endogeneity”. In business, you instead talk about “co-creation”, “pain points”, and “deep dives”.
“Let’s put a pin in this and circle back offline” appears more sophisticated than a plain “Let’s chat later”;
“We haven’t road-mapped any bandwidth for this” signals you’re part of the professional-managerial class;
If you unironically utter “Let’s synergize our learnings for maximum disruption,” you’re not really thinking about what you’re actually saying.
That said, not all business jargon is garbage. Some terms genuinely cut complexity and help communicate:
Stakeholder. Instead of saying “Hey, we should talk to everyone who needs to sign off on this project and/or is affected by the decision,” you can use “Hey, let’s get all the stakeholders in the room”;
Root cause. Originally a technical term, it now commonly refers to “the thing that’s really causing the problem at a deep level.” The “root cause” is a much quicker, direct way to get that message across;
Scalability. This one also saves a lot of words, I mean, verbal bandwidth. Instead of “Our system needs to be designed in a way that it can grow and manage increased demands over time without compromising performance and/or accruing massive costs,” you just say “Our system needs to be scalable.”
Business jargon has its obvious pitfalls, and it’s fun to poke fun at them. Yet some buzzwordy terms are concise and effective. It’s all about, uhm, strategically leveraging business vernacular to optimize communication while not over-indexing on industry jargon.
In other words, common sense.
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