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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Corporate Jargon, dead yet?

The MBA admissions season is starting to tail off. As usual, I spent at least 25% of my time pulling corporate jargon out of client's essays. Words like "value extraction" or "create value" are replaced with what the person actually did. "Leverage" and "optimize" are replaced with real verbs rather than name of a TV show and a Transformer. "Tool kit" is replaced with an actual description of skills unless the person is describing a carpentry project. "Impactful" or "Impacts" is changed to the humble original word of impact. I also pull out the word unique, profound, and deeply because they are just another way of saying "very" and suggest that they use real adjectives instead.

Given that MBA admissions cracks down on corporate jargon, I wonder if this effort will eradicate impactful value streams from future MBA's vocabulary like the invasive species that it is? I had further hopes during a conference call with a vendor that was trying to cross sell us their products. Since we were on mute, we spent the call laughing at phrases like:
  • To be honest with you
  • As the risk of sound sales-y
  • I don't want to get into the weeds
  • In order to wrap your arms around this
We spent the time trying to use as many of those phrases in one sentence. The winner announced "At the risk of being honest with you, I really want to wrap my arms around this project while I am down in the weeds." These corporate jargon phrases caused the person's stock to plummet as fast as the actual stock market in August.

After these observations, I was feeling hopeful that standard English was making a come back at the expense of corporate jargon. Real words and adjectives were the new black. Or is it the new pink? My hopes were dashed after receiving this email from a current MBA student. I had expressed an interest in writing for their newsletter and this was the response that I got:

Thanks. Will be in touch. We are refining a plan based on the responses we have been getting so we can optimally leverage the talents and enthusiasm of all those interested in a high level of engagement. We would like to "share the wealth" such that the time commitment for any single individual is manageable and to have a full queue of content throughout the year to maintain momentum as each edition rolls out.
For readers who don't speak corporate jargon, the response was "We are trying to get a lot more writers so we have enough material to produce at least a few issues." FML. MBA student's writing ability is a lost cause just like Rick Santorum's hope of ever solving his Google problem.

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