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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seeking True North or How to Talk like an MBA

I graduated from my MBA program at the tail end of the dot-com/corporate scandal/Not so Great Recession of the early 'oo. As a result, I interviewed a lot and got to hear a lot of corporate jargon. Most jargon was a harmless way to avoid being specific about any answer. MBA's, including graduates of online MBA programs, pick this up to show they understand corporate code. The only insidious example was during my interview with The Advisory Board Company (ABC).

The ABC is very serious about their corporate jargon to the point it's used to brainwash employees. Every employees' answer to a question ends in an inflection? That is because ending in an inflection makes you sound curious? And interested in what everyone is trying to say?

The most egregious example was my interviewer's answer to my question of "What would you say the ABC company does best or how would you distinguish yourself from other consulting companies?" I admit that my question was a little obnoxious but I had already written off ABC as a likely employer and wanted to have some fun.

"We are best at finding true north?" my interviewer inflected back. I dug my nails into my thigh to keep from laughing. True North was a popular corporate cliche at that time that means finding the right strategic direction. Or finding any strategic direction. Or any direction and if it's actually strategic, that's a bonus. It merges on saying that ABC can predict the future on a high end or like saying they were really best at peeling the onion or kicking the tires on the low end. As Damon, from the HBO TV series Hung said, "All that you get when you peel the onion is more onion."

With that back story, I would like to share a recent column that has some of the best corporate jargon that I have seen in a long time. Here are my favorites from the link above:

End of the Day
Formerly 5 to 5:30 p.m., now defined as an uncertain point in the future when everything magically turns out okay. Example. "At the end of the day, the pollution in the groundwater may just drain into the earth's core and become unnoticeable."

Industry or field. Example: "I'm in the manufacturing space," "I'm in the waste disposal space," "She's in the adult film space," or "He's in the space exploration space."

Can't Wrap One's Head Around
Unwilling to get into the details or deal with the facts; intellectually lazy. Example: "I can't wrap my head around all this recycling business; Let's throw everything in the dumpster behind Home Depot and let them deal with it."

You will also talk like an MBA, especially if you remember the inflection in your voice?

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