Tuesday, May 01, 2007

When he's underwater does he get wet?

I recently attended a session of a course run by professional facilitators, where I found myself put firmly offside by the use of jargon or buzzwords.

The one that stayed with me was 'your key learnings and takeaways'. Having been told to think about these and discuss in a small group, I was intensely irritated. I found myself wishing that instead we had simply been asked what we had learned and what were the important ideas we took away from the course.

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about why this annoyed me so much. I couldn't help thinking I was being quite petty about it. But every time I approached the idea again, I felt the same way. To the facilitators these words may simply be shorthand for terms they find themselves using very often. It's probably appropriate to take these shortcuts when talking amongst themselves.

This explanation gives them the benefit of the doubt that it's jargon as opposed to virtually meaningless buzzwords.

Even so, used this way it sounds glib, and I think the audience can be forgiven for doubting the sincerity of their request for information. Using such shorthand suggests, and even encourages, similarly shorthand responses - in this case a simple regurgitation of some of the 'dot points' of the course material ('messages'). The bottom line is that I don't feel that they want to hear what I really think.

Oh well. They'll probably have a good laugh when they read my feedback form.


Jejune said...

Buzzwords are just totally off putting and reveal slack (or non-existent) thinking. 'Takeaways' indeed. Were they handing out Chinese, or pizza? Nearly as bad as 'lifestyle developments'.

I liked the article about jargon vs buzzwords.

Bells said...

Takeaways? Oh that's sooo cringeworthy. I second what jejune said. I just thought of pizza.

It's pretty bad in government, isn't it? But I imagine it's everywhere.

I would be worried if you hadn't been off put by it!

J said...

Not a fan of buzzwords/jargon myself. I dislike 'lets catch-up offline' [meaning lets talk after the meeting in private in more detail]. Some popular ‘buzzwords’ make me laugh though - the biggest looser contestants and the word 'journey' (apparently there was a drinking game attached to this - every time someone says journey you take drink - trust me you can get really really pissed doing this). I got 'accused' of using of using jargon the other day for saying I would 'facilitate a focus group...’ so maybe people in glass houses should wear clothes…

bertie said...

Speaking as someone in the buzzword-heavy environs of the public service and management, but with an inherently skeptical IT background (jargon central!), I think it's essential to be able to ignore such terms, otherwise I find myself in a permanent state of either sarcastic, sneering frustration or overwhelming fury. Of course that means many meetings can sound like censored rap lyrics, with very little content...

As far as "taking it offline" goes, it's often the only language short of "shut the hell up" you can use to keep unfocused meetings from taking over your life!

And now I'm off to synergise a groupthink findstorm ;)