Jargon-o-matic

Listen. Do you hear it? Do you hear the souls of normal-speaking people being heaped onto a raging funeral pyre of jargon and timidity? No? Perhaps then you are part of the herd. Maybe you've tried to use direct, clever ,sometimes challenging methods of designing and speaking. Maybe you've fought the good fight with the corporate higher-ups. But if you can't hear, or don't see the mighty roar of empty words all around us you have fallen too deep into the abyss.

It always amazes me how people in power, with authority and education and the skill and the savvy to rise to lofty positions seem to cower in fear when communicating with their customers. The fear of alienating or challenging people sends them into a shell of corporate nonsense. To wit:

Our core competencies distinguish the company from other service providers and include ... building and maintaining added value partnerships that deliver consistent service quality. These core competencies deliver value for all our stakeholders and enable the company to delight customers.

This comes from what may easily be my new favorite site called Weasel Words. Speaking as a customer, there's nothing I love more than a core competency. Nothing tells me what makes you special like repeating four times that you have a core competency. I assume by core competency you mean, what it is you do? Making widgets, or doing this or that as my "partner." I am so undeniably delighted!

Ugh.

What disease is it that has symptoms like this? Is it laziness, or wrath or one of the other deadly sins? Mostly it's fear. Fear that challenging people will turn them away. Fear that not pandering to the lowest common denominator equals a communications failure. However, in reality, the lowest common denominator usually doesn't build your successes. People that answer challenges or are actively engaged in what you are saying and doing are where you build success. These supposed partnerships are only built through both people working on something. Talking at someone and talking with someone are two entirely different things.

Perhaps as designers we need to understand that the corporate jargon foisted on the world by lawyers and MBAs isn't going away terribly soon. But we can start by translating one of their phrases into something that helps them understand what it is we should be doing. When they say they want a "call to action," we need to tell them that what they want is to challenge their audience. Otherwise all we will do is encourage stakeholders to leverage the synergies that will help us all partner in a way that produces value and high quality results.

Oy. If you need me I'll be the one flinging himself off a bridge.