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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Business Terms to Avoid!

When it comes to business communication, one of the quickest ways to spot an amateur or a manager stuck in a rut is to hear them spout clichéd, corny and overused business terms over and over again.

Repeating the same phrases is more likely to dull their meanings and will probably fail to galvanize employees, customers, partners or investors. The reality is that clear, concise and direct language is usually your best bet for communicating effectively.

These overused business clichés can certainly be used sparingly, but if you find yourself using them too often, consider opting for more straightforward and polished alternatives:

1. ‘Think outside the box.’
If you’ve used this expression before without much success, it’s probably because it’s been beaten to death. Instead, just say you want to try something new or different, and encourage employees to think about ideas beyond your current product line, approach or goals.

2. ‘Push the envelope.’
Forgo this dated phrase and opt for "pushing the limits of what we've done in the past” or “innovate on past accomplishments.”

3. ‘Wizard/rock star/guru/ninja.’
Sometimes people use these terms on job boards when searching for a multi-talented or extremely skilled individual, but the worst is when professionals use them to indicate that they are really good at what they do. These days, everybody is a self-proclaimed wizard or ninja, and the value of these descriptors has diminished exponentially. Instead of telling people you are a “Photoshop rock star,” show them your talent by offering real examples of your work, client testimonials and awards you've won.

4. ‘Low-hanging fruit.’
While this phrase can be useful for describing “easy pickings” (customers who are easier than others to convince to purchase your product), it gets tossed around far too often without enough clarification of whom or what it actually applies to. Be sure to define who the low-hanging fruit is and why it is considered an “easy sell.”

5. ‘Synergy.’
This overused rallying cry for cooperation and collaboration in the workplace is best left in the past.

6. ‘Proactive.’
This term can definitely be valuable if you want someone to go above and beyond the call of his or her position, but oftentimes it’s used incorrectly. Do you really want this person to take aggressive action and to take on greater responsibility (beyond your management or advisement)? Or is it just that you want this person to be more passionate and excited about his or her work? That is not the same as being proactive.

7. ‘Solution.’
A solution is a mathematical proof or a solid dissolved in liquid. Try not to use this word to describe every single product or service you offer. It's likely that what you offer isn't a solution for everyone, not to mention that saying you offer a “solution for busy professionals” is far too vague. If you choose to use this word, make sure you explain exactly what and whom you are a solution for.

8. ‘Work smarter, not harder.’
This idiom is a bane of most employees’ existence. Instead of encouraging workers or partners to do this, tell people exactly what they can do to be more efficient.

9. ‘Drink the Kool-Aid.’
First of all, you should know that this phrase is rooted in a tragic and morbid event. If you’re asking people working for you to “drink the Kool-Aid,” you're technically asking people to follow your lead without critically thinking the issue through. If you’re referring to customers, opt for a more appropriate expression, since your goal is not to convince consumers to blindly “drink the Kool-Aid” but rather to gain value from your product.

10. ‘Robust.’
This buzzword has been tossed around so much that it’s lost its own robustness. If you mean the product is powerful, describe what makes it powerful rather than using this empty word.

11. ‘Failure is not an option.’
Failure is always an option. Furthermore, failure is something that you shouldn't fear—or make others fear. With every failure, you learn how to grow and improve. Instead of imposing a fear of failure, emphasize the importance of overcoming any challenges and learning from them, so that success is always an option.

12. ‘State-of-the-art.’
Too many businesses use this adjective to imply that their space or system is at the cutting edge. You can use this phrase once, but instead of repeating it again, provide concrete examples that show how your facility, equipment or process is better than your competitors.

13. ‘We can’t reinvent the wheel.’
No phrase is equally as obvious and ambiguous. Explain to your employees what shouldn't change and what aspects need to change.

14. ‘Disruption.’
If you mean to say that you are shaking up the market with a new idea or technology, try not to use the term "disruption." Too many startups have proclaimed themselves to be disruptor's, which ultimately comes off as presumptuous. In most cases, you will be providing a similar product or service to those that already exist, but improving upon them. Unless you are really going to drastically affect the market with a wildly different product, it’s best to simply explain how you are taking an approach outside of the norm.

15. ‘Give 110%.’
You are basically asking people to give more than their all, and that is not only unreasonable; it’s mathematically impossible.

16. Any sports term.
"Hit a grand slam," "Knock it out of the park," "Let’s bring our ‘A’ game," "Going all the way to the end zone," "Cross the finish line," "Cast a wider net," "Drop the ball," "Tee it up" and so on. There are countless sports terms, and almost all of them are tired. Like all great athletes, after a solid career, perhaps it’s time to retire them for new analogies.

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