The cold, dead hand of business-speak (and how it can actually be helpful sometimes)
Let’s say you make greetings cards. You’ve been doing it for years and doing it well enough to think you maybe need to invest in one of those young, thrusting MBA chappies to take the business to the next level.
He’s been with you two days and comes out with this:
“We don’t make greetings cards, you know, we are in the business of providing chronologically-driven, remote-messaging celebration aids.”
Now, like any other normal person, you respond by asking him not to bring that business-drivel here. It may be OK at Harvard but it’s not OK in the real world of rhymes and paper and pictures of kittens.
The MBA shuffles off, grumbling about dinosaurs and you carry on doing what you’ve always done.
Until an annoying little thought occurs.
‘Celebration aids? Things that help people mark events, successes, milestones in their lives? Yes, that’s what a greetings card does, but it can also be done by other things, of course. Should we think about using some of our knowhow on other kinds of celebration aids?’
You say the phrase with a grimace, but it’s set you thinking. Should you look at linking up with flowers, chocolates, teddy bears and T-shirt people?
Then, while sorting through some new puppy shots, another thing floats into your brain “Chronologically-driven?”. Well, dur… people send birthday cards on people’s birthdays. Anniversary cards on anniversaries. Or, rather, women do – men don’t remember birthdays.
Hmm. Should we find a way to help men remember dates? Free text reminders with card suggestions attached? A branded diary system that lets people store important dates and then just click to choose and send a card?” And then, of course, the phrase ‘Remote-messaging’ comes into your head and you spend the weekend in your shed, taking a sideways-look at everything you thought was true and, in the process, inventing a whole new business.
Within months, you have a startup division that trades exclusively online, prints personalised messages on demand, delivers cards, chocs, bears and bottles, reminds customers when they need to send something and lets them buy with one click.
Three apparently vacuous jargon phrases have prompted you to
a) disrupt your own sector
b) build a bomb shelter for when the traditional greetings card industry turns bad and goes the way of newspapers and yellow pages
c) keep the young MBA whipper-snapper on for a bit longer.
So come on – what’s your vacuous jargon? Your brain-numbing business-speak? How else could you express what you do in terms that open your mind and prompt you to take a sideways-look at your business before someone else does?
You could think about it in the shed this weekend.