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Jargon-Wielding "Buzz Junkies" Should Be "Decruited," Report States

Cambridge, Mass. ( — According to a mission-critical new study, people who use the latest business buzz phrases may actually harm their companies by using jargon in place of more concise language, a practice the report derisively calls "message de-engineering."

Tool Time's Tim Allen

"Jargon and catch phrases almost always blur the meaning of what you're trying to convey, and this recontextualization actually decreases productivity," said Harvard Business School Prof. Mary Chang, who co-authored the report, entitled The Negative Value Proposition of Message Deengineering at the Enterprise Level.

As a result, the report noted, the average employee wastes time looking up the terms, or simply grins and pretends she knows what the buzz phrase means. "I call these average employees who don't get the lingo the "Blank-and-Smile," said Chang.

Unfortunately, Chang added, jargon and catchy phrases are now ingrained in corporate culture, "so eliminating it will require companies to think outside the box and implement viral solutions at the enterprise level."

Based on sheer usage, most buzz breeders and buzz junkies work in middle management, but Chang said even chief executives are guilty. "Sadly, sometimes these phrases come from the top," she said. "I call these 'smoke signals.' They look pretty, but they're incomprehensible unless the Chief is there to translate."

To Chang and others, there is a much simpler way to communicate strategies, goals, and ideas. "I remember the first time I heard the term 'tool creep,' I thought it was that Tim Allen character on TV," said Randall Crench, the report's co-author and a partner with consulting firm Accenture. "But it really describes the habit of attempting to use too many software applications, which are sometimes called 'tools.'"

While Crench conceded that "You suffer from tool creep" is catchy, he argued it would be better to simply state, "You use too many applications." However, he added, "at least 'tool creep' is better than 'buy-in,' as in 'I need your buy-in on this.' That phrase is totally jargon basement."

But why use a term like "jargon basement" instead of simply stating "bad"?

"Because 'jargon basement' is a best-of-breed phrase," said Crench. "Really, by introducing you to this new term, it's like I'm handing out a gift. I call that 'Santa Clausing.'"


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