Why Consultants Speak Like Idiots

I have always been simultaneously amused and appalled by consultant-speak–and no more than when I hear it coming out of my own mouth. You know the buzz words. Like snakes in the underbrush, they lie everywhere, buried inside complex sentences:

* “The key to success for your organization is to discern how to leverage your assets for maximum return.” (Nowhere in Merriam-Webster is “leverage” a verb).

* “We’re experts at operationalizing your business strategy.” (“Operationalize” is simply.  not. in.  the.  dictionary).

* “Let’s utilize existing frameworks wherever we can.” (This one actually is in the dictionary, but it’s  a pretty complicated way to say “use,” dontcha think?)

More cringe-inducing, we don’t just write idiot-speak, we actually talk it!  It’s humorous at best, but trust-damaging at worst.  Imagine being a client and having to decipher all this lingo.  Imagine being a client, sitting through the 100th presentation given by the third consulting firm to be hired in the last three years, and thinking quietly to yourself, “I thought these guys were going to be different.”

One way we can stand apart – while simultaneously creating real human-to-human connection – is to simplify our language. You know, say it in plain language.

For an insightful and humorous take on this subject, check out Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide written by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky – notably, three consultants. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“Jargon, wordiness, and evasiveness are the active ingredients of modern business-speak, and they make up the Obscurity Trap. This trap is particularly pervasive, and its perpetrators are evil people who want to destroy civilization as we know it. (Well, okay, not really, but it felt good to get that out.) We call this a trap because the people who spew jargon and all of that evasiveness really aren’t evil at all.

"They’re us.”

Ouch.

What can we do? 

Listen to yourself. What do you hear? What are you really trying to say?