Why Business Jargon Makes Us Dumber

The other day a friend sent me an article he thought I might find interesting. As I’m always in the mood for distraction, I open his email to read something like:

“Interesting use cases on breaking down organizational silos, we should leverage this from a data democratization perspective”

WTF!? Let’s step through it piece by piece.

I think he means that the article shows an example of people working together.

Okay. I’m with that.

He goes on to say that we should encourage people to work together as well, because, well, people working together is a good thing.

Okay. I’m still down with this.

He then takes one step further. We could improve our ability to work together if we made it easier to share data.

Great. Sharing data is usually a good thing. Nothing to disagree with.

So you might ask that if I was able to successfully translate this sentence, just what exactly am I bitching about?

What I’m pissed off about is what was not said. Jargon has replaced insight and action. Jargon can describe “what” in only general terms and it can NEVER FUCKING DESCRIBE “how” something should be done.

And how something should be done is the hardest part. At least for us business types who never build anything beyond PowerPoint decks.

I’m so sick of people using jargon as if the execution of whatever the fuck it is they are talking about is self-evident. “Just leverage our social media gamification strategy with the Cloud”.

Obvious. Let me go do that.

Not only do these sentences not explain anything, but in their use of jargon they make it harder to get things done.

Now there is nothing wrong with trying to find common language or using an appropriate level of abstraction for an audience.

The key point is the audience — are you explaining something to me or asking me to do something?

If you are explaining something, well fine, use metaphors and general language so I can get a high level idea.

But if you are asking me to do something then I need concrete, specific insight and actions. “Leveraging” a “perspective” leaves all the work in front of me.

And when we talk about complex, difficult tasks without mentioning any of the complex, difficult things we are being dishonest.

When we assume that hard things get done just by describing them at the highest level we make ourselves dumber. And I’m dumb enough as it is.