Buzzword Bingo- (great post from Phil Baumann)


That’s the latest one, isn’t it? Big. Data.




Paradigm Shift. (This, by the way, is a misuse/misunderstanding of Thomas Kuhn‘s works).

The list goes on. In fact you can create your own buzzwords with this Solution.

For those of us who have been involved in Enterprise (there’s one too!) for decades, we all get the joke. We also still use them – some do serve purposes.

The problem, however, is that language influences our perceptions. In turn, our perceptions influence our decisions and our decisions influence our behaviors and cultures.

I cited #BigData at the top because data *are* important to our lives and businesses. Data is also exploding at mind-boggling rates – virtually incomprehensible. So it is a vital undertaking to transform data into information – which is the minimally sufficient and relevant data required to make a decision in light of risk.

The problem with jumping on a buzzword like Big Data just because it’s popular is that it conceals a bigger problem – Small Brains.

Big Buzzwords. Small Talk.


Therein lies the high cost of cheap buzzwords – the opportunity cost of permitting language to set business leaders and managers down irrelevant paths – asking the wrong questions…putting the right shoes in the wrong boxes…failing to see that the problem on the table isn’t the problem.

When confronted with buzzwords, consider asking:

  • What concept is this getting at?
  • What does it conceal from our view?
  • How does it function – that is, what does it do (to our thinking and our behavior)?
  • Where did it come from?
  • Why are we using it?
  • If we never utter it again, will somebody die or we will our EBITDA shrink?
  • If Ralph in Accounting brought this accursed word into our organization, can we sack him now?

Buzzwording is a vestigial robot-beast from the factory-model Capitalism of the 20th Century, where Operations Research and Management undercut human creativity, decision-making, and risk-taking.

It was a century of stability and those methods may have ‘worked’ in a time of stability. Things could be touched, grasped, placed into baskets, counted, and shipped and sold in solid containers.

Today, data *is* creating a new kind of business physics. Things are harder to touch, grasp, placed into baskets, counted, and shipped and sold in solid containers. Intangibility is emerging as the dominant asset class on the balance sheet.


So yes, Big Data, is an important topic of conversation – but the language displaces and conceals the larger problems inherent in business relevancy.

It may seem trite, but language *does* matter. Choosing the clearest words and forming them into the most focused, relevant, and meaningful ways to communicate ideas which lead to action is vital to any organization that wants to thrive in the Century of overwhelmingly #IrrelevantData.

#BigData and big mouths won’t save us from Big Data. Big Brains with articulate mouths will do that.

May the swiftest pivitors streamline their alignment strategies to optimize the trajectories of their paradigm shifts!



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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