The "best" business buzzwords

Can there ever be too many business buzzwords?

It takes time, but many corporate “buzzwords” eventually transition into the everyday vernacular. Take, for example, “reach out”: Not call, email, talk with or discuss – but “reach out”.

Updated: 27 November 2017

Because this year will almost certainly be no different to previous years, here’s a quick look at nine business clichés and trendy buzzwords that are not only leading the charge into the common vernacular, but in a few notable cases already dominating it.

  1. Growth hacker: A marketer or entrepreneur who understands social technologies and other techniques for efficiently and quickly attracting new users.
  2. Wantrepreneur: Someone who lacks the resources to realise the potential of a business they have started or want to start.
  3. Return on relationship (ROR): Similar to ROI (return on investment), but referring to the loyalty and recommendations that can arise from nurturing relationships.
  4. Insight-as-a-Service (IaaS): The outside provision of business ideas based on analysis of large datasets. Derived from IT phrases like “Software as a Service” (SaaS).
  5. Stack: A collection of software used at different points in a process, e.g. “what does your sales stack consist of?”
  6. OTTS: Acronym for “over-the-top service”, describing the highest quality of customer service.
  7. Acqui-hire: A company acquisition motivated by the buyer’s desire for the target company’s personnel.
  8. Presstitute: “A journalist or media source whose news coverage is considered to be inappropriately influenced by business interests [or] political motives,” according to dictionary.com, which added the term in July.
  9. Al desko: Eating at one’s desk in an office.

Of course, while the above might be “hot off the press”, the list is far from exhaustive. For better or worse there are many other buzzy words and terms in business, including the following, which are either in the process of usurping common sense language or – worse still – superseding it.

Professional Development: CPA Q&A. Access a handpicked selection of resources each month and complete a short monthly assessment to earn CPD hours. Exclusively available to CPA Australia members.

Out of pocket: Used to refer to expenses paid personally rather than by an employer. Now also used as a synonym for “unavailable” or “out of the office”. For example, “I won’t be on email next week because I’ll be out of pocket at a conference”. May have developed from working with smartphones which, of course, are kept in your pocket.

Pivot: A highfalutin way of admitting something isn’t working, that you’ve made a mistake and are trying to fix it. In other words: Saving face.

Swim lane: Like “deep diving”, yet another pool derivative, this time relating to a responsibility specific to just one individual within the organisation.

Elevator pitch: A very brief and concise speech or presentation.

De-layering: Usually referred to in the context of flattening the corporate pyramid, but in practice a euphemism for laying people off.

Dynamic resilience: Code for changing strategy depending on which way the wind happens to be blowing.

Quick-and-dirty: An expedient and likely flawed solution to something: “I ran out of time and had to do a quick-and-dirty job on that report.”

Drinking the Kool-Aid: Epitomising the very worst in corporate bad taste, it’s a tactless reference to the 1978 Jonestown Massacre. Drinking Kool-Aid is meant to represent blind allegiance to and acceptance of company dictates.

Drinking from a firehose: To be inundated or overwhelmed by information.

Net-net: Is rapidly superseding “bottom line” in everyday biz-speak. Like its predecessor, is used in conversations that have nothing to do with accounting.

Burning platform: Jargon for an impending crisis.

In the weeds: A disparaging term used by senior management to describe actual work.

Professional Development: CPA Q&A. Access a handpicked selection of resources each month and complete a short monthly assessment to earn CPD hours. Exclusively available to CPA Australia members.

Helicopter view: A “big picture” perspective (not available to anyone in the weeds). Has the same meaning as the lesser used “30,000 feet level”.

Piggyback: To follow up on someone else’s point.

Move the needle: If something doesn’t “move the needle” with management or clients (i.e., generate a positive reaction) it will probably be back to the drawing board.

Learnings: Seemingly useless buzzword that adds nothing to “learning”.

Double down: To double an investment in an already risky proposition.

Rock star: CEOs with a rock star designation are quite the thing, but do they have more status than a rocket scientist, brain surgeon or guru?

Ping: Recently reincarnated with the meaning “get back to”.

Long pole of the tent: Commonly used to describe the biggest problem.

Circle the wagons: Starting to sound as dated as it actually is: “Let’s circle the wagons and get everyone together.”

Circle back: Mainly middle management buzzword for wanting to discuss an issue further down the track.

Focus like a laser beam: Still a favourite among those who started work around the same time lasers were invented.

Open the kimono: Not heard as often as it used to be. Read: “This looks like an opportunity, so we need to open the kimono and see what we can find.”

Muscle memory: That which is required when everybody is clueless.

Growth hacking: A new spin on what marketers have always done – namely, business development. Now a buzzword of choice among “wantrepreneurs”.

Newsjacking: Sooner or later someone was going to invent a term for injecting a brand’s imagery into a breaking news story and generating social media engagement as a result.

Conversate: Unfortunately, now widely used to describe a conversation.

SWAT team: Like its law enforcement namesake, this is a group of experts (almost always senior management) within an organisation that can rapidly mobilise to either solve a problem or harness an opportunity.

Tiger team: Similar to but lacking the high profile of a SWAT team, this is a group of IT experts who spend their days identifying and fixing technology problems.

Glory vulture: A person who attaches themselves to a high-profile task or project with the sole purpose of enhancing their own career.

Bio break: Yet another term to describe visiting the bathroom.

TPS report: A business report made popular by the film Office Space and used in the television series Lost. Has since appeared in ads, music and video games to evoke work that is rote and mundane.

Call up to the majors: To be offered a promotion.

Marketroid: Pejorative term for someone who works in the marketing department.

Let’s talk that: A supposedly cool take on “let’s discuss that” but it might be difficult to keep a straight face.

Peel the onion: Still a popular metaphor for examining a problem – one layer at a time – to determine what’s causing it.

Pre-revenue: A term designed to drive bankers mad, basically meaning that someone’s game-changing startup has not progressed from costly hobby to profitable business.

Hard stop: The no ifs or buts intention of senior executives to end a meeting exactly when they say it’s going to end.

Over the wall: Bizarre new expression that inexplicably means to send something (a document, for example) to a client.

Cascading down: To communicate new information to staff.

Strategic staircase: Cringe-worthy office-speak for something that “sounds like a plan”.

Return on engagement (ROE): Social media term for measuring the payback from time invested in different communications platforms.

Lots of moving parts: A company with many different departments, various workers and types of equipment.

Drill down: Handy if only because it can be used either as an adverb/verb combo or compound noun – i.e., “the next level drill down” – even in the same sentence. Now that’s multi-asking!

End-to-end solution: Only redeeming quality is that it’s slightly less pretentious than a “360-degree solution”.  Who needs words like “complete”?

Beer o’clock: Will never lose its attraction!

Have we missed any game-changers? Reach out to us in the comments section below!


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