Editor's Page

Dec. 21, 2004
Buzzwords for the old millennium

I know I'm supposed to be excited about this one-of-a-kind New Year's and all the wonderful new things that will happen in the wonderful new millennium -- yadda, yadda, yadda -- but I can't help it: I'm even more thrilled about all the buzzwords I hope to leave behind.These include, in no particular order:

  • Win-Win: People who feel compelled to reassure you that they don't want to pick your pockets are, in fact, fighting a strong urge to pick your pockets. Even worse, they will quickly lose that battle, then make you listen as they cry about how bad they feel about it. Give me a straightforward Win-Lose any day.
  • Thinking Out of the Box: A favorite of execs who like the exciting idea of change, as long as it doesn't mean anything will actually be different. Causes tremendous damage when leaders who are comfortable in the box step outside their expertise and trip up talented underlings who actually carry the boxes in which the leaders ride. If you must invoke this phrase to expand your horizon, you've been in the box too long already. Stay there.
  • Corporate DNA: A marvelous biological metaphor for change-averse execs, as in "It's part of our Corporate DNA." Allows leaders to appear intellectual as they critique their organization's failings without requiring them to take action, since inherited DNA cannot be altered. Used primarily by executives in the shallow end of the gene pool.
  • Market Space: Invoked by marketing VPs of software firms as they struggle to explain technologies that they themselves don't understand; e.g., "Our market space is the middleware tier of emerging e-concept businesses and related partners." Although confusing to co-workers and customers, this marketing technobabble allows otherwise unemployable liberal-arts majors to cash in stock options.
  • Evolutionality: I have no idea what it means, but I'm sure I heard a marketing VP use it. Or else I went to sleep during the market-space segment of his presentation and dreamed it. Either way, e-mail me if you can use it in a sentence with a straight face.
  • Tasking and Retasking: Consultant-speak for assignment and reassignment, as in "I've been tasked to determine the evolutionality of our market space." This nonsense allows leaders fearful of stepping on toes to avoid the appearance of giving orders and followers fearful of losing status to inflate the importance of demotions, as in "I've been retasked to supervise the paper clips."
  • e-anything or anything.com: Memo to every ad agency in the universe: Using e- as a prefix and .com as a suffix to every product under the sun -- e-toilets? Toilets.com? -- was cute the first, oh, 10 trillion times we saw it. But it's over now. For 999 years, at least. Try that Pokmon thing, if you really have to jump on a pop-culture bandwagon.
  • Y2K: Looking forward to the disappearance of, but not limited to: made-for-TV disaster movies; Y2K preparedness surveys by consulting firms; cranky Y2K readers who complain that the new millennium doesn't really begin until 2001 (yadda, yadda, yadda); and -- most of all -- columns that begin "I know I'm supposed to be excited about this one-of-a-kind New Year's."
See you in the next millennium. Send e-mail messages to John Brandt at [email protected]

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