Classroom: Jargon – a necessary evil?

May 3, 2016

By Reshma Krishnan.

“Jargon is neither a good nor a bad thing,” says Suzanne Bates, author of Speak Like a CEO: Secrets for Commanding Attention and Getting Results. “The biggest mistake executives and professionals make is to fail to ask themselves if what they’re saying is the best way to communicate to the audience that they’re targeting.”

 

Nothing can be more frustrating than being in a meeting and having no clue what’s going on. It’s a running joke that the only reason business schools and school of investment banking still exist is because that’s where you go learn jargon. But what is jargon and why do we need it? Do we need it all? Jargon is a type of shorthand, a way for people to communicate the same idea across to others using fewer words. Unfortunately it also acts like a password to a secret society and is one of the easiest ways to make someone feel like an outsider.

 

Every industry has its ‘industry language’ be it hospitals (She has an IM -intramuscular, issue) or politics (He’s standing on the soapbox again). Some jargon has become so ubiquitous, the words cross industry boundaries. We use the military jargon AWOL (absence without leave) in companies all the time; it’s just easier to say, ‘he’s gone AWOL’ instead of saying, ‘we’ve been looking everywhere, calling everyone, checking emails, but we’re unable to find him.’ But then someone says, ‘best negotiate your sweat equity and ratchet carefully so you’re getting the full bang for the buck because you know you’re going to be the chief cook and bottle washer.’ That’s a mouthful.

 

Corporate finance is full of jargon, and worse, it evolves with every passing business quarter. Some basic ones are ‘Core Competency’ or ‘buy-in’ or ‘lots of moving parts’ – overused but here to stay. Others depend on the season and e-commerce and venture capitalism jargon is the zeitgeist. So over the next few weeks we will introduce you to some fashionable new buzzwords that will both help impress an interviewer and boost networking skills at the next conference or the lunch table.

 

String of Pearls: This is something I came across in a business article. Anand Chandrasekaran, chief product officer, Snapdeal, said, ‘Snapdeal is not just an e-commerce product. There is a push to go after a set of apps inside the company…‘String of Pearls Strategy,’

 

String of Pearls strategy, like much corporate strategy, originates from Military strategy and is a theory where a nation, take China, puts up nodes ‘pearls’ across an area of influence like the Indian Ocean to enfold a territory, gaining global influence. It also evokes reactions from neighboring countries because they feel threatened. This was then applied to M&A, Mittal is said to have acquired all the sick steel plants, thereby increasing company’s net worth, which threatened giants like Thyssen Krup indirectly. Every pearl is strung to form a necklace, the final goal. Snapdeal alluded to creating apps where each app solves a problem and locks in a customer.

The thing about jargon is that it’s not very specific and terribly contextual. The trick is to make the jargon work for the context and not the other way around.

 

Imarticus Learning is a leading training institute in finance and analytics education provider.

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