I admit it…I have a larger vocabulary than the average gal. My sentences are sprinkled with a healthy dose of $10 words that my friends always tease me about. But even I’m perplexed by the words people throw around in the corporate world. All these words–ROI, maximizing, leveraging, depreciation, assets, and liabilities–are real words, but what do they actually tell you?
Sometimes, I’ve sat in meetings and listened as people throw around these words. Back and forth across the table, they toss out sentences that confuse the situation, often in an attempt to escape responsibility. And people bob their heads in silent support, except when the big words make them the bad guy. Then, they go on the attack with their own big words. I can count on two hands the number of times someone actually spoke up and said, “That was my fault,” or “I take responsibility for that.” Now those are bold words.
I wonder why is it so difficult to keep it simple, why companies and their employees don’t embrace clarity. Some of the boldest words ever spoken in history were in the shortest of sentences. The Gettysburg Address, using only 272 words in 10 sentences, continues to withstand the test of time (thank you Wikipedia). But who remembers the speaker or the speech prior to Lincoln taking the stage? (For you history buffs, it was Edward Everett using 13, 607 words.)
I try to keep things simple, knowing that sometimes the boldest ideas are shared with simple words. Imagine a meeting where the boss stands up and says, “How much money will we make on this deal?” Or, “What’s holding us back from meeting our goals?” I suspect that most of the successful companies in the world didn’t start out by saying what’s the ROI of coding this program. Those words came later when they started hiring MBAs.
People with the bold ideas are too busy bringing them to life to waste time using big words that fail to capture the imagination.