Three minutes ago, I received a marketing email that started with this wretched example of business prose:

"Are your best enablement assets scattered all over?"

In addition to sounding vaguely salacious, the question suffers from the same problem as all biz-blab: it's a weak attempt to impress the reader by dressing up mundane with overly-fancy verbiage.

But it's the word "enablement" that really sticks in the craw. There have been some annoying buzzwords in the past ("leverage," "paradigm," "synergy," and "disruptive" come to mind), but "enablement" somehow manages to be even more obnoxious.

And to make matters worse, "enablement" has been popping up recently in business documents with persistence of a Twitter troll. "Why is 'enablement' so Gawd-awful?" you ask? Ah, let me count the ways:

1. It's hokey.

Like all biz-blab, "enablement" carries the stench of everything that's annoying in the business world: the long meetings, the boring presentations, the marketing pitches, the self-satisfied "ooh, aren't we clever" attitudes. Ugh.

2. It's an inappropriate analogy.

In the psycho-babble from whence the term originated, "enablers" are people who make it easier for people to self-destruct, typically through some form of addiction. Why would this be a good thing?

3. It's strangely passive.

"Enabling" something implies that somebody or something is standing outside of the process and--what?--removing barriers to that process? That's not very impressive; it doesn't sound essential or even necessary.

4. It's damnably vague.

What does "enablement" mean, anyway? How, exactly, do you "enable" something? Even in psychobabble, it's not exactly clear what "enablement" is, other than that it's a bad thing for family members to be doing.

5. It adds needless complexity.

The email I received is a perfect example. Renaming your sales materials (if that's what's meant) as "enablement assets" simply adds confusion to an otherwise simple concept. The same thing is true of every usage of the "enablement."

For example, how does re-categorizing a CRM application as a "sales enablement platform" add any value whatsoever? "Customer Relationship Management" was already wretchedly abstract. Did we need to make the concept even more nebulous?

With all of the above in mind, I'm enabling the awarding of "enablement" as the "Worst Buzzword of 2018." I'm willing to consider alternatives (feel free to comment) but unless there's a consensus for some other atrocity, I call that "enablement" wins by default.

Published on: Sep 8, 2018