Disruption, gamification, synergy, showrooming, pivot. It seems as though hot new buzzwords surface and saturate our vocabulary and twitter accounts every time we turn around. But beyond the buzz, what are these words and phrases really all about? Let’s take a deeper look.
From the assembly line to the boardroom, buzzwords have been circulating the workplace for generations. Throughout the years, academics, marketers and consultants have invented countless buzzwords to accommodate the changing times and given entirely new meaning to old words. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, British psychologist Raymond Cattell repurposed the popular buzzword word synergy, which was originally a Protestant term for cooperation between the human will and divine grace. Today it’s one of the most memorable and frequently used buzzwords in the business world.
Unlike regular everyday speech, buzzwords present a sort of love-hate scenario. It’s important to know what they are and how to use them intelligibly in your industry, but overusing them can create a sense of insincerity or pretending. We have to think about buzzwords like a dash of salt – just a little bit can take a dish from good to great, but when you use too much it can ruin the entire meal. As a general rule of thumb – use your buzzwords wisely and remember that a little dash can go a long way.
As a sociologist, the use and deeper meaning of buzzwords in today’s corporate culture continually fascinate me. While many may view corporate jargon and buzzwords as meaningless, trivial speech, it actually reveals a great deal about individuals and how they view their work and profession. Buzzwords can help workers feel more emotionally connected to their “tribe”, and can also provide a sense of ownership and pride. In a world where our lives have become so inextricably connected to the internet, buzzwords can also help marketers and individuals shape their personal brand. By identifying and utilizing strategic buzzwords through the use of hashtags and social media, we now have the ability to self-identify and align ourselves with other thought leaders and experts in our industry. But before you go on a hashtag craze, first determine which buzzwords matter most and why you want to use them in the first place. Just like any fad or trend, when overused they risk the danger of becoming trite and losing their true meaning.
Beyond all the buzzwords and noise, sometimes it’s simply a matter of going back to the basics. According to marketing expert Tom Fishburne, “Sometimes the most powerful way to talk about a new product or business is Plain English. The more innovative your product actually is, the less you’ll need to use buzzwords to justify it.”
Whether you’re launching a product, re-branding or building a new business, be real, be unique and let your true voice do the talking. Buzzwords will come and go but quality, authenticity, and character will stand the test of time.