As Agent Scully once said, “not everything is a labyrinth of dark conspiracy, and not everybody is plotting to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate.” But business jargon is designed to do just that. It should never be used in any setting, but it is obviously here to stay, so all we can do is take up arms against it a phrase at a time.

I’ve done this post before, as have many others, but here are my current most despised phrases. I hope you’ll add your own in the comments section.

  1. IDEATION: Ideation is the creation or formation of ideas. In a business setting it implies a group process designed to stimulate ideas (operating under the assumption that most business processes do not.) If you want to confuse your colleagues, use Ideationalist to describe your position.
  2. KEY TAKEAWAYS: The idea of the key takeaway is a paradox. Presenters often conclude a talk by giving audience members “the key takeaways.” If a 45-minute talk can be adequately distilled to three points presented in the final minute, this suggests the prior 44 minutes might have been unnecessary.
  3. CARE-ABOUTS: Not to be confused with Care Bears, Care-Abouts are those things that a certain group, such as customers, care about. Why not simply use regular English and say, “Here are the things our customers care about.”? (When I was at Hewlett-Packard, Carly used the expression “nice-to-haves.” I would never use it but it seemed to fit her.)
  4. CONTENT CREATION: Trivializing all online creative endeavors as if they were some kind of industrial process. It should be spelled KONTENT KREATION(TM). When I think of Kontent Kreation I envision people in jumpsuits mixing 55-gallon drums of noxious chemicals. It’s not a scientific process, it’s writing, graphic design, editing…
  5. THE ASK: Often used in question form, “What’s the ask?”. “The Ask” describes an intended outcome in the form of a request such as “Will you help fund our program?” Similarly, when we go to bed, and we want to know how long our partner intends to sleep, we might ask, “What’s the sleep?”.
  6. LEARNINGS: An annoying way to say “what we learned.” Any opportunity to turn a verb into a noun or vice-versa is low-hanging fruit for jargonistas. (Note how I used another buzzword in there.) This is how we got the word “parenting.”
  7. ENABLER: Some amazing product, service or technology a company offers that will change a customer’s life. Also “a person who by their actions make it easier for an addict to continue their self-destructive behavior by criticizing or rescuing.”
  8. REACH OUT: Another phrase for which there is a simpler English equivalent: take the initiative to contact. Also a fine Motown hit by the Four Tops.
  9. GOING FORWARD: Starting now. Going Forward is used to describe a change in policy in such a way as to not offend the people in the room who implemented the previous, idiotic, destructive policy.
  10. THE NEW NORMAL: This phrase, oddly, was out of date before it was first used by business people. I can’t find a citation, but it appears to have been applied to several financial downturns/recessions. Similar to THE NEW NORMAL is the phrase A PERFECT STORM which is the convergence of several catastrophic events. A PERFECT STORM is therefore not desirable in a business setting, or any other.

It’s a short list, I know, but these are the ones that I find the most reprehensible. Do you love or hate these? (There’s no middle ground). If you’re a detractor, what buzz phrases bother you most?