I found myself doing it the other day, and I'm sure you do too.
I was on the phone with a colleague when out from between my lips slipped a jargon term, the sort of language that elicits a response of "What do you mean?"
The jargon term I used was "surfaced"--as in, a couple thorny issues related to an inbound content marketing project had "surfaced."
That's the epitome of vague. And while sometimes vague is OK--depending on the context of the conversation, whom you're talking to, and why--the problem with using a jargon term is that it's habit-forming. Our minds tend to go to the path of least resistance, and that's why jargon terms and cliches are in such abundant use.
Unfortunately, it's also the sign of lazy thinking. It requires more energy to be specific, but that's the only way real goals can be spelled out, and, ultimately, the only way for them to be achieved. It’s also the only way to dig in and find your own brand's story.
But I thought it would be useful to crowdsource successful founders and CEOs and ask them what jargon terms they'd like to jettison from "business-speak." Here are 10 of their replies.
1. "Big Data"
This has been the business buzzword for a few years now, reflecting the rise of the internet of everything and programmatic technology. Bill Johnson, CEO of Citi Retail Services, recognizes that this is a ubiquitous term--Merriam-Webster added it to its dictionary in 2014--but he thinks we've evolved far beyond the point where just having vast amounts of data can make your business competitive.
"It's about having the right data and exceptional data analysis to yield relevant information that enables us to connect with and better serve customers," he said. "In other words, it's more about what you do with the data than the fact that it is 'big.'"
Anyone for "Better Data"?
Speaking of data, Hari Ravichandran, founder and CEO of Endurance International Group, is super focused on it, which is why he would never make a decision based on a hypothesis. "I prefer to use data to make the most informed decisions possible."
Or, as Crowdtap CEO Sean Foster said, as it's commonly called--strategy. "It's become the vanilla soft serve of business terms," he said. "It's lost any meaning it once had. More often than not the usage is not rooted in the now--it’s stuff we're going to do."
"It's long and vague," said Andy Crestodina, principal of Orbit Media. "Every time the word 'solutions' is used, there is a shorter more specific word that could take its place. Crestodina, owner of a web design firm in Chicago, believes that salespeople and marketers are the only people who use the word.
"No one goes to the internet and searches for a 'solution.'"
5 & 6. "Ecosystem" and "win-win"
We received a double-dip of terms to be banned from SoFi CEO and co-founder Mike Cagney. "Though I actually really like the term 'blockchain,'" he said, and then added that "almost no one who mentions it actually knows what it is."
Piers Fawkes, founder of PSFK, said that "calling someone who uses a service a 'user' ignores the emotional reasons why people interact with brands."
"It's a jargon term in business that should be eliminated," said Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates, owner/operator of theBerkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Real Living and Prudential Real Estate networks. "Don't try. Just do."
Andreas Bodczek, CEO and co-founder of Fyber & RNTS Media, believes there's a tendency in the tech industry to sensationalize or jump to conclusions.
"We hear as much about the next potential bubble burst as we do about unicorns," he said. "From my perspective--yes, there will be ups and downs, overvalued companies and market corrections. But the bottom line is this: Technology feeds every facet of our lives. While we're certainly going to see some trends come and some trends go, tech is here to stay. It's about passion and building sustainable businesses. There is little value in making predictions or infusing jargon into the industry dialogue that are based on extremes."
10. "I'm looping in 5 people on CC on this e-mail"
When we asked Tapad CEO and founder Are Traasdahl what terms he thinks should be banned, his reply was simply this, "I'm looping in 5 people on CC on this e-mail." (No one was CCed on the email, BTW.)