How good words turn bad

buzzwords wasteland

The items that we now categorise as weasel words, wank language and corporate buzzwords weren’t always the indefensible, indecipherable brain-slop of desk-shackled keyboard tappers.

Almost every single one began as a word or term that didn’t make you want to chainsaw it alive and throw its corpse into an abandoned quarry.

Some were very good words: think of bespoke, curate and granular.

Some were not quite so pleasing to look at or say, but had delightful original meanings: think of journey, storytelling or kicking goals.

And some were fairly plain but serviceable: think of action (the noun), drive and disrupt

Each of them has succumbed. Action has become an entirely unnecessary verb. Journey, drive and disrupt have reached epidemic proportions and have lost almost all meaning to the point where “Let’s drive a disruption journey” would now be considered a perfectly legitimate (possibly an “innovative”) sentence in many offices. Storytelling is what a lot of people who can’t tell stories profess to do exceptionally well these days. Etc, etc. 

Yes, each of the has succumbed, but not in a single, fell swoop. Instead they have succumbed in a relatively lengthy process of bollocksification. It can take many forms, but it usually goes something like this:… Read the rest

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“How’s working at McDonald’s going for you?”

Edgar McDonald's

[At a party.]

“So what do you do for a living, Johnson?”

“Uh… it’s Jonathan… I’m a… well, a writer.”

“A writer? You write books? Novels?”

“No, no, no. No. Definitely not.

“No.”

“But I do write a little thing… a little columny thing… in the paper.”

“The local paper? Well that’s nice.”

“No. The Age. And The Sydney Morning Herald. And some other ones online.”

“Oh. What do you write about?”

“Well… I dunno… stuff.”

“Stuff? As in auction prices?”

“Auction pri-? What? No. Stuff like work, life in the corporate world, management buzzwords.”

“Give me an example of one of these columns of yours.”

“Well… um… for instance… I might talk about how difficult this conversation can be.”

“Which conversation?”

“The one we’re having now. The one that starts with ‘So what do you do, Jonathan?’ ”

“Sounds fascinating. And what did you do at uni to qualify you to be a columnist?”

“Well, I’m not really… I did Arts. A Bachelor of Arts.”

“Oh. A Bachelor of Arts? Oh! Wow! How’s working at McDonald’s going for you?”

“No. Remember. Five seconds ago, I told you I don’t work at McDonald’s.”

“You did. You did. That’s right.… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to “deep dives”

deep dive

I’m all for metaphors. If variety is the spice of life then metaphors are the smoked paprika of language. I just made a metaphor out of a metaphor; that’s how highly I regard them.

But my veneration for the figurative extends only so far.

Like so many things sucked into the corporate vortex, metaphors become significantly less delectable once appropriated by the Organisational and Regulatory Group for Aligned and Strategic Management (ORGASM), or whatever the central workplace buzzword creation committee is called in your region.

Here’s an example.

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The Haught guide to bringing stuff to life

Image: Insomnia Cured Here, flickr

Image: Insomnia Cured Here, flickr

If you want career success in 2016, it’s not good enough to “implement”, “generate” or “create”; you need to “bring to life” whatever it is you work on daily.

You can bring to life a brave concept or ambitious plan. You can bring to life a detailed design or complex first draft. You can also bring to life an annual report or financial statement.

Bringing stuff to life is such a versatile and inclusive exercise.

While working at Smorgy’s Burwood (yes, the one with the volcano – thanks for asking) I had a manager who was years ahead of his time, so I’m well-versed in the discipline of life-bringing. Let me regale you.… Read the rest

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How to become a thought leader

Thought leaders always use megaphones

Thought leaders always use megaphones

My new year resolution was to become a thought leader.

I’ve already achieved it.

I got my accreditation from the Society for the Promotion of Integrated Thought Leadership in the mail yesterday. How? That’s a very good question and, as a thought leader, it is my solemn duty to answer as condescendingly as possible.

There are two questions you need to answer before you begin the rigorous process of becoming a Fully Accredited Thought Leader:

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What is content?

Content Officer business card

I was referred to an article the other day titled ‘31 awesome ways to improve your fitness’. Number one was “Make your workout as awesome as you can.”

There was no elaboration.

I didn’t get past number 4.

What’s that got to do with the price of milk?

Well, what I’m referring to above is a form of content. Exceptionally bad content. But that’s just one example. What is content in a more general sense? For the answer to that question, I went to one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject: me.… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to inadvertent plagiarism


Curly Wiseguy

I had one of those abject moments of deflation last year. You know the ones: they came just after you realise a piece of your work – or the concept behind it – which you’d considered original in the most pristine sense, has been done before?

OK, to be fair “in the most pristine sense” is a bit of an exaggeration. I knew that mocking and denouncing corporate malarkey was, by the rules of human nature, almost as old as corporate malarkey itself. But I thought everyone was off in their own corners ridiculing and railing against their own bug-bears: the ubiquity and omnipotence of “brand”, the impenetrability of “agile”, the absurdity of the tiny list of words that go into most corporate mission statements…

…I was wrong. 

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The Haught guide to “downsizing”

Downsizing virabbits
Euphemisms are like rabbits. Actually, they’re like viruses. Oh, let’s just say they’re like virus-rabbit hybrids. Virabbits.

They’re small and fluffy and sometimes even comforting to be around (don’t tell me you haven’t ever wished you could stroke a little grey euphemism’s ears). For this reason, people underestimate them and the next thing they know they’ve spread with astounding speed and they’re everywhere.

Euphemisms are also very good at mutating. Just when you think you’ve become immune to one, a new strain emerges.

Take the euphemism ‘downsizing’, for example. … Read the rest

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The Voice: a conversation

A seal

By Liam Quinn from Canada, via Wikimedia Commons

Friend: “You should write a Benign to Five column about The Voice.”

Me: “What’s The Voice?”

“Are you jok- ? Oh, you’re not. It’s a reality singing show. On Channel 9.”

New Faces?”

“What? New Faces hasn’t been on since 1985.”

“But like New Faces?”

“No! Nothing like New Faces! Not at all. Not really. Well… a little bit, I suppose. No! Not New Faces.”

“But my columns are about work and toilets and cassowaries and stuff.”

“What if… you… wrote about what would happen if job interviews took the format of The Voice.”

“YES! Brilliant! Bert Newton would be one of your interviewers – it’s gold!”

“IT’S NOT NEW FACES! IT’S THE VOICE!”

“OK. OK. Who’re the judges then?”

“There’s four. Um… Delta Goodrem…”

“The piano one.”

“Uh – yeah. And then there’s… uh… Seal.”

“A seal? One of the judges is a marine mammal? I’m definitely watching the show now. Why haven’t you told me about this show before?”… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to “driving”

Driving value and efficiencies

If you’re reading this having set out with me on the Haught journey right back at the start – the very first post – thank you. You’ll no doubt remember that I long ago compared modern journeys to the wonderful (although admittedly futile) adventures that took place in the 1970s Japanese TV series, Monkey. (I think of you, dear reader, as my loyal, lascivious and temperamental Pigsy.)

You’ll no doubt also remember that I have already removed obstacles on your path to better in-office (and, let’s be honest, in-life) communication by revealing to you most useful words in the English language.

In the category of Most Outstanding Noun, the incomparable “learnings”.

In the category of Most Outstanding Adjective, the unimpeachable “strategic”.

And now for the blue riband Most Outstanding Verb.

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