Gobbledygook and Other Important Ideas from Corporate America

A friend passed along to me a lecture by Australian writer Don Watson, given at the Australian National University. You can Google him  to find out more, but he’s done a lot of things – including working as a speech writer for an Aussie politician – and he has not yet lost his sense of humor.

Anyway, the gist of this lecture, given in support of his latest book, Bendable Learnings, is that Corporate America are destroying our ability to communicate via language. (Truthfully, he skewers all corporate speak; he just has so many excellent examples coming out of the American flavor that it’s a bit weighted that way.) BTW, it’s not available yet in the United States.

You can watch the lecture for yourself here.

Give yourself some time to listen. It’s worth the effort.

He lambastes PowerPoint – one of my least favorite software packages. Yes, Keynote and the Open Office equivalent also go in this pile. Although there’s a kind of underground movement afoot to change the way presentations using these softwares is done, mainstream corporate folks still depend on meaningless clauses (if they even deserve any sort of speech-part definition) bullet pointed into inanity.

Because one of my many jobs within the 5th Circle is being the public voice of the whole organization, I understand all too well the insanity Mr Watson highlights. It doesn’t seem to matter how very hard I try; the meaningless insertion of “outcomes” or “metrics” or “value proposition” creeps in.

It’s true, I sneak through actual thought content on a semi-regular basis, but  not nearly often enough for it to have genuine value. I know this. It’s one of the reasons I hang out here.

Who else out there is subjected to this non-speak on a daily basis? What do you do to keep it from making you stupid? Let’s learn from one another.

One Response to Gobbledygook and Other Important Ideas from Corporate America
  1. Mark W. "Extra Crispy" Schumann
    February 9, 2010 | 18:19

    I went to an “alumni reunion” from my first job after college. I saw someone there who used to drive me crazy by ending every sentence with “for the most part.” Arrrrrgh.

    This isn’t quite what you were asking for, but I hate the expressions that don’t mean what people think they mean. “Chomping on the bit” is actually “champing [pulling] at the bit” which is what racehorses do. “It begs the question” does NOT mean it makes you wonder about something.

    One of my favorites was when dr’s old friend and mentor Michael reminisced about a place where “each restaurant was better than the next!” I said, “You mean they kept getting worse and worse? How awful!”

    After I explained to Michael that “each one better than the next” meant that the later (“next”) restaurants must be less-good than the earlier ones, he said two very short words to me.

    Oh, another awful business/political/military cliche: “On the ground.” As opposed to “forty-thousand foot level.”

    What do I do to prevent infection? Usually I mock the perpetrators. :-)
    .-= Mark W. “Extra Crispy” Schumann´s last blog ..Rules for Radicals and Agilists =-.

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