How not to speak like a "business idiot"
June 23, 2005
While killing time between flights in an SFO bookstore, I picked up a copy of this book: Why Business People Speak Like Idiots : A Bullfighter's Guide. I highly recommend this book to all business people (or students about to launch their careers). At 177 pages it is a quick read and stuffed with information, stories, and anecdotes from the front lines of business that will make you laugh, and shake your head in both agreement and disbelief.
According to the authors, there are basically two kinds of people: (1) people who speak clearly, directly, simply, and from the heart, and (2) smart people who nonetheless obfuscate, bore, and confuse by "speaking like idiots." The book even includes a glossary of typical BS words used by "business idiots" such as "center of excellence" or "best practice."
OK, inspired by the book, here's a little test I made to help you determine your business communications IQ (or should that be EQ?).
QUESTION: Your boss says the following to you:
"How can we repurpose our results-driven strategy for scalability and a maximization of best-practice, frictionless, future-proof alignment moving forward?"
How would you answer?
(A) "Excellent question, boss! Let me interface with my people off-line for cross-departmental buy-in and I will ping you later. By the way, that is a world-class tie you are wearing!"
(B) "Let me drill down and link up with the first movers in the org to come up with a killer value proposition for all the stakeholders. By the way, that is a real best-of-breed necktie you are wearing!"
(C) "Well, this kind of paradigm shifting, outside the box thinking will require some more bandwidth. I will cross-check with our mission critical repurposing agenda and see what kind of game plan we can go-live with A-Sap. Hey, new tie? Kool!"
If you chose (D) then chances are you are already well on your way to becoming a clear, effective communicator. Congratulations!
This book is not specifically about presentations (and certainly not PowerPoint), but its messages apply to presentations, memos, emails, meetings, or any other kind of interpersonal communication in a business context. I made a ton of notes in my copy and will be sharing bits of the book from time to time. Although the authors are from Silicon Valley, I do not know them personally. So trust me when I say that this is one book every business professional will want to read this summer. Excellent stuff.