Business cliches

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Seth Godin has started a list on Squidoo for business cliches. I added “data driven.” The list itself is an interesting read, although I definitely found myself struggling as to whether a particular cliche should be voted up or down. For instance, “core competency” is definitely a cliche…but it’s also a fundamental, meaningful business concept, and, in my experience, I more often than not see it used in a meaningful way (as in, “We can/should outsource that, as it’s really not our core competency.”). Should that get an up vote or a down vote?

“Next Generation” on the other hand, bugs the crap out of me. And, at my last company, it seemed like half of the internal IT projects had that label stuck on the front of them. My beef with that cliche is that it is as short-sighted as the term “modern architecture.” If you label something “next generation” and then it rolls out, don’t you look a little silly referring to it as the “next generation”? That’s the nice thing about version numbering, even if you play games with deciding whether something is version 1.5 or version 2.0, you can still have an easily understandable reference point. Of course “Web 2.0″ is becoming a cliche…which is probably why I read something yesterday (can’t remember exactly where) where the author was being clever and referring to “Web 3.0.” I digress. Given my personal take on “Next Generation,” should I give it an up vote or a down vote? Does the top of the list represent the most overused, most now-meaningless cliches…or does the top of the list represent the cliches that are heavily used but meaningful? Probably the former, based on Godin’s introduction, but it’s not entirely clear.

I do really like the concept of this sort of list. I’m a big James Surowiecki fan — his column is a must read in The New Yorker each week, and The Wisdom of Crowds is a great book. Hah! Another cliche in the making! I’ve bumped into people who have not actually read the book but who, nonetheless, rattle off the concepts it covers. Surowiecki actually does a great job of distinguishing between different types of “wisdom” and different types of “crowds” and which types of crowds are wise under which types of circumstances.

It will be interesting to see how Godin’s list evolves over time.

One Comment


  1. When attempting to craft marketing messages, most of these words on Godin’s list inevitably come to mind and you end up attempting to write in a manner that avoids them. I have yet to find a replacement for the word robust. Somehow, using the word ‘sturdy’ or ‘hearty’ doesn’t seem to cut it when describing IT products and services.

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