May 10, 2005
News & Opinion: Business Book Smarts
Action item. Impactful. Value add. Synergistic. Stakeholder. Admit it. Youve used at least one of those business ambiguous words at work in the past week. Its not your fault. So say the authors of WHY BUSINESS PEOPLE SPEAK LIKE IDIOTS (Free Press, 2005). Instead, its the fault of today's business culture which seemingly rewards vagueness, conformity, and dullness in business communication. As employees, weve lost our human voice in favor of hollow and non-committal jargon. The business culture we live in has conditioned us not to use straight-forward language for fear it will be off-putting to others or make us look less intelligent. We use jargon as a way to say something without saying anything that will be committal and potentially polarizing. And we risk sounding less smart when using simple and real words. (How else to explain why wed rather say Activate pilot program and not Lets get started.) The authors of WHY BUSINESS PEOPLE SPEAK LIKE IDIOTS give practical advice on how best to avoid the common trappings of business ambiguous words by injecting personality, humor, and clarity in ones work life. As a companion to the book, the authors have also created a nifty software program, Bullfighter (free download), which can sniff out and eliminate jargon in your work documents. To help make sure your next PowerPoint presentation doesnt fall victim to conformity and dullness, follow Cliff Atkinsons advice in BEYOND BULLET POINTS (Microsoft Press, 2005). Cliff advises creating presentations like film directors create movies. That is start with a script, create frame-by-frame storyboards, and use dramatic images to connect with your audience. Hollywood creates powerful and engaging presentations, no reason business professionals cant do the same using PowerPoint. Yes, using PowerPoint. For a no nonsense approach to creating effective PowerPoint presentations, read Seth Godins e-book REALLY BAD POWERPOINT (.pdf). Seth is an advocate of less is more thinking when it comes to presentations. He advises creating slides which reinforces and doesnt repeat what you say. Seth also recommends using no more than six words per slide and using powerful images to emotionally tell your story. Itll take you few extra minutes to ditch the jargon for real words with real meaning and to go beyond bullet points. However, the reward is huge -- youll be recognized as someone who connects with everybody and be viewed as a star at work.
Business Book Smarts is an intermittent series of posts designed to not only be a source for good business books, but also a resource for how to better approach work situations. The author, johnmoore, is a marketing medic with the Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice and has worked deep inside the marketing departments of Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods Market.