Now that the end of year holiday season is over, it is time for the start of the New Year business meetings. We are being blessed with a multitude of annual business results reporting and Field kick-off meetings as companies try to fire up their investors and their sales organisations for the year ahead.

Author: EuropeanaEU; CC BY-SA 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: EuropeanaEU; CC BY-SA 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Generally, January is the month when management ask those around them to “gird their loins”, “step up to the bar”, “take no prisoners”, and to “storm the market” with “leading edge technology”.

In other words, it is time to roll out every cliché to make sure that no-one has to actually deliver any statements comprised of any original thought or language construction …. It is definitely the time for “drivelspeak”.

Here are some that I have heard, and hate the most, in the last month.

Thinking outside the box metaphor for creative thinking is believed to have come from management consultants (who can be blamed for most of drivelspeak) in the 1970s and 1980s, who challenged their clients to solve the “nine dots” puzzle.

Author: Steve Gustafson; GFDL license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Steve Gustafson; GFDL license; via Wikimedia Commons

Today it has come to represent the fact that the team being tasked to think outside the box have hit a problem that they cannot solve, but are now being exhorted to believe that since they are suddenly trapped in a room, they will be able to think totally differently than they have ever been able to do in the past. As creativity cannot be suddenly successfully mandated in a meeting, it has as much chance of “pushing the envelope” as most teams would have of pushing a mountain. Innovation and creativity are driven by company culture and behaviour and can only flourish when “part of company DNA”.

Paradigm shift is believed to have been first postulated in 1962 by Thomas Kuhn in his influential book “The structure of Scientific Revolutions” in describing a change in the basic assumptions (paradigms) of science. Now it is used to refer to every change, in any and every aspect of life no matter how trivial, whether it is a change from paper to electronic invoicing or whether a baby should now be carried on a parent’s front rather than the back. In the IT industry it usually describes a new release of an ageing piece of software that has had some bug fixes applied.

Author: Wncody; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Wncody; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Bandwidth had an obvious meaning when an engineer was describing the net bit rate capacity of a channel in a digital communication system. Now it is used as a trendy I-am-so-hip-and-IT-savvy way to replace the word “capacity” or even “time”. Now “Mothers do not have the bandwidth to raise children and have a successful career” and “Executives struggle with finding the bandwidth to run their business, spend time with their family and get out on the golf course”. Apart from “net bit rate capacity” the only other valid use of the term should be in comparing the band width rate of a band like Meat Loaf as against The Rolling Stones (much greater).

Eating your own dog food also called “dogfooding” generally refers to a company (usually a computer software company) using its own products successfully as a show of confidence to the marketplace. As a software company has a hoard of experts internally that could install, implement and bug-fix any piece of their own software, unlike its customers, it is hardly proof of ease of use. I have worked in one software company that implemented much of its own product set, and told the whole world, despite the fact that most managers were loath to use it, and tended to rely more on their own spread-sheets.“Drinking the kool aid” has much the same meaning in North America, despite the fact that it is based on the death by poisoning in 1978 of the members of the People’s Temple, so the true meaning should be that using your own products will definitely kill you. I could understand using the phrase “Eat your own cooking”, but as the owner of three dogs I would never consider fighting my dogs for a taste of their kibbles or packs of Cesar dog food.

Cloud computing is the use of computer resources, both hardware and software, that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the internet), and is hailed by those who provide it as a major “paradigm shift”. Starting with “SaaS” (software as a service), every aspect of IT Services can now be described as being cloud-based just by adding “aaS” to the first letter. So we have now gained a plethora of new wondrous acronyms such as (but not limited to) “RaaS” (Reporting as a Service), DaaS (Data as a Service), NaaS (Network as a Service) and so on. In support of “Accuracy as a Service” I believe that they should add “BaaS” (Bullshit as a Service).

Author: Davide Lamanna; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Davide Lamanna; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Going viral has absolutely nothing to do with bird-flu, swine flu or norovirus. It now refers to internet content which, mainly through social networking sites, can spread rapidly through a population by indiscriminate “sharing”, and it has now become a major life goal to have some content go viral, today being rated as having more than 10 views, many by relatives. As a result we can now fully understand that it does not take much to amuse small minds. Video clips such as obese Korean teenagers dancing half naked, young women singing to a hairbrush and babies laughing have spread across the globe faster than did the great plague. Linked to this is the obsession with collecting a million “likes” on Facebook. There are people on this planet who will not give their child a puppy, have sex with their boyfriend, buy themselves a lobotomy or have their next chemotherapy treatment without first collecting a million “likes”. I would immediately like to start a movement to collect one million Facebook users to endorse my demand that Facebook immediately include a “Hate” option alongside “Like”.



  1. Frank says:

    Happy NY Les,
    love all the “drivelspeak”, and your humorous view, it left me “outside my comfort zone”. In defense of the cliches, some are descriptive, many “stick” (and it’s all about “stickiness”) and its better than the old 3 letter abbreviations.
    Looking forward to a hugely positive 2013.
    Regards, Frank

  2. leshayman says:

    Frank … I have no issue with their use, just that with overuse many have lost their effectiveness. I admit to being guilty of their use in the past to make a point … I am now tired of hearing them used to replace reasonable use of language. Have a great 2013. Les

  3. Sunil Geness says:

    Les, this makes such good reading and captures the nuances of corporate speak so elequently:-). It also highlights how we batter people with drivelspeak, expecting them to miraculously deliver more just through listening to the barrage of cliched sentences….

    • leshayman says:

      Sunil, our own industry is one of the worst generators, but it is amazing that so much of IT drivelspeak has moved into general usage. … There are so many more examples than just these. Les

  4. Damon Cockcroft says:

    Hi Les,

    Read your piece concerning Air France, and then your Thinking Outside The Box post concerning corporate drivel.

    Would you be interested in reading a book entitled: This Wouldn’t Happen To George Clooney (Frequent Flier Fumes)?

    I hope that my e-mail address can be viewed by you on this WordPress comment submission, and if so, and you reply, I can forward a complimentary copy.

    The Amazon description is:

    After reading the books of complaint and humour from pilots and flight attendants, it’s about time we had one from the passenger.

    Ever wanted to tell that flight attendant or fellow passenger what you really thought? Know what ‘bleed air’ is, and how it may poison you in-flight? Laugh at the safety demonstrations when you give but a moment’s thought to what a real emergency may be like? Wondered what that grey man of the corporate world thinks about flying, and whether the benefits of frequent flier status and lounge access are as good as you suppose?

    Hate the way that you are treated when travelling by air?

    Then this book is for you.

    Written by that grey man of the corporate world, it’s a Christopher Hitchens meets An Idiot Abroad mix of satire and serious review, presented through personal experience.

  5. Malcolm Booth says:

    I was thinking “Outside the Box” this morning, as I had the “Bandwidth” and I just wanted to thank you for your usual AaaS (Amusement as a Service).

  6. Murali says:

    Having read your blog regularly food sensible advise, didnt encounter this side of Les till now. This is incentivizing me to make a trip to South of france to meet you and share views. Thank you

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