Friday - - Mind Games -

Quite of­ten we come across peo­ple in of­fices who pre­tend to be busier than they are, who like to ex­ude an aura of im­por­tance when they’re in lowly po­si­tions, and have busi­ness cards with pompous-sound­ing des­ig­na­tions far re­moved from the work they re­ally do. You can bet they also speak Busi­ness English, which was once a term for lan­guage that called for sim­ple and di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion, English with its sleeves rolled up for ac­tion. Now it’s the op­po­site, with con­fus­ing jar­gon and ob­fus­cat­ing ‘beat­ing round the bush’ phrases.

It is bad enough that nouns are ver­balised (“ac­tion that e-mail!”) or vice versa (“our first slide asks a ques­tion, and the re­veal will be in the next”); de­scrip­tions of sim­ple ac­tions are couched in the lofti­est of lan­guage. Here is a smat­ter­ing:

Pro­duc­ing statis­tics is ‘num­ber­crunch­ing’; a new prod­uct you’ve launched that steals busi­ness from one you’re al­ready sell­ing is ‘can­ni­bal­is­ing’; and you’re no longer bogged down in de­tails, but ‘ex­e­cu­tion­ally ori­ented’. In an ear­lier, sim­pler era if you iden­ti­fied a prob­lem, you put your fin­ger on it; now you ‘defini­tise’. You like the cool­ness of that ‘-ise’ end­ing? Try the term for ‘to see it all clearly’ – it’s to ‘holis­ti­cally per­pet­u­alise’.

Any of­fice worker is an ex­ec­u­tive, and his or her as­sis­tant is there­fore an ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary or ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant; a plan­ner be­comes a strate­gic con­cep­tu­aliser and some­one who speaks to you is an in­ter­locu­tor. And at the end of it all, if ‘profit mo­tive’ is too coarse a term (surely, we’re not in it for the money), we would call it bot­tom-line think­ing.

Are you smart and ed­u­ca­ble? If so, you have a high learn­ing-curve sit­u­a­tion ca­pa­bil­ity, but you won’t just work with what you have, you’ll lever­age your strengths and weak­nesses, and need to sur­round your­self with sup­port data – con­text (note the ver­bal­i­sa­tion).

Of course, this means avoid­ing any­thing that waste­ful, I mean to say du­plica­tive, and ca­pa­ble of han­dling any sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing an industrial ac­ci­dent and sim­i­lar unan­tic­i­pated tran­sients; but if there’s only this gob­bledy­gook to show for it with­out sub­stan­ti­ated per­for­mance, by any guess (oops, ball­park es­ti­mate) we wouldn’t be fin­ished, but to heck with it (fi­nalise, any­one?).

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