My Banned Words for 2017

Photo Credit:

Shelly Palmer

Just for fun, here is a list of buzzwords, biz speak, and hipster droppings that should be banned from every business meeting forevermore. In my last banned word rant, I opined about a proleptic conversation that began,

Client: “Our Big Data Rock Star ideated a cloud-based, scalable, native programmatic tool set that produced excellent learnings.”

[Consultant]: “Well, it sounds like he took it to the next level … efforting 110% to craft a best practices, robust solution you can leverage, and it’s clearly out of the box thinking … but maybe you shouldn’t try to boil the ocean … it’s got a lot of moving parts and I’m not sure it’s something you want to take ownership of. … You might be accused of punching the puppy, so the optics are all wrong. We should probably put this in the parking lot.”

Sounds pretty stupid, right? If you don’t like these phrases strung together, why use them individually? So, without further ado:

Banned Words (in No Particular Order)

We Hacked It – Just say, “Figured it out.” Unless you are under investigation by the FBI, NSA, or any of the other 15 national security agencies, you’re not a hacker. Not even close.

Paradigm Shift – Do you mean there is a new archetype or an outstandingly clear example of a shift from the original pattern or model of “All things of the same type are representations or copies?” If not, it’s just “something new.”

Game Changer – is “a person or thing that dramatically changes the course, strategy, character, etc., of something.” Did that person or thing dramatically change the business? If not, try “significant,” “nontrivial,” “interesting,” “impactful,” “meaningful,” or anything else. Let’s not “gamify” business.

Disrupt Ourselves – or other people will disrupt us first. I get it! Try “innovation,” “transformation,” or just simply “change.” All are great words to describe another overused but more accurate phrase, “Adapt, or die!”

Hockey Stick – Really? A hockey stick? We are living in the Age of Exponentialism. Everything is changing exponentially every day. We’re somewhere on the blade of the hockey stick; we passed the “stick” part about 5,000 years ago. While we’re on the subject, stop drawing the curve in the air with your hands when you say it – it drives me crazy!

Out of the Box – Just say, “We have escaped our Luddite boundaries and evolved our thinking beyond the rectangular indications on the org chart.” What? You think that sounds stupid? It does sound stupid, but it’s 50 times more interesting than “out of the box.”

Monetize – I want a $5 premium on my usual $20 fine for using banned words the next time you say “monetize.” “How we make money!” “Make bank.” “Bring home the bacon.” “Cake up.” “Chase paper.” “Hustle.” “Rake it in.” “Stack papers.” “Bilk the masses out of their hard-earned cash.” Anything but “monetize!”

Back by Popular Demand (See What I Did Here?)

Learnings – Just stop! I learned, we learned, he/she/it learned – it’s the easiest verb to conjugate in the English language. Ugh! BTW, you should stop using “efforting.” See the aforementioned “learnings.”

Ideate – Really? People who use “ideate” clearly have no idea about the process of ideation. It should cost you $20 every time you get the idea to say it.

Rock Star – Let me be very, very clear: there are no rock stars in any profession other than rock music. Rap stars don’t call themselves rock stars. Neither do EDM, country, soul, R&B, jazz, or even folk stars. Why on earth would anyone who doesn’t play rock for a living think it’s OK to call someone in business a rock star? When you can jump across the stage and land on your knees while playing a Bb7#9 chord, screaming the lyrics (on key) with pyrotechnics exploding all around you in front of 20,000 adoring fans, you’re a rock star. If you’re great at media buying or human resources … well, you get my point.

Scalable – As opposed to what? We’ve built a new app that can only run on three devices simultaneously, but we’re hopeful. Who says that? Even if it’s true, you’re going to lie and say it’s carrier-grade and bulletproof. Has anyone ever been in a meeting where someone said, “Our technology doesn’t scale”? Body shops don’t scale; people don’t scale; boutiques don’t scale; custom donut shops don’t scale. Technology scales!

Disclaimer: By simply attributing this list of banned words to me, you will receive a nonexclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable (through multiple tiers) right and license to exercise any and all copyright, trademark, publicity, and database rights that you have in the User Content in any and all formats or media now known or hereafter devised in the future. You are further hereby granted the nonexclusive, irrevocable, and unconditional right and license to describe, relate, broadcast, exhibit, transmit, publish, use, monetize, distribute, and/or exploit your User Content in any such manner as you shall elect, in whole or in part, on the Internet, in print and electronic form, in merchandising, publicity, and advertising, or in any other media now known or hereafter created or devised throughout the universe in perpetuity.