Last Christmas, while I was supposed to be buying things for other people, I splurged on a silly novelty gift for myself: a box of “Corporate Flashcards,” marketed as “the perfect gift for the unemployed or over-employed.” If you follow me regularly, you know I have a fascination with words and wordplay, as well as a healthy disdain for buzzwords. Thus, this product was tailor-made for me and I couldn’t leave the store without it. It reminded me of the post I did on Health IT bingo but had the added attraction of illustrations and, even better, examples of how each word should be best used in a sentence! It also includes words that I hear nearly every single day from entrepreneurs who have come to tell me exactly why their product is the imminent salvation of Western Civilization. When they are super-ambitious, the salvation is Global.
Last week I was leafing through the flashcards after sitting through a series of fundraising pitches. My personal buzzword alarm was reverberating at a furious rate due to the guys I had just listened to and it reminded me of the cards. I searched through them to see which of the words I had just heard were included in the box. BINGO! It was a treasure trove of déjà vu. Given how damn funny these cards are, particularly in the context of the words’ real-time use, I will now say, “you’re welcome,” in advance of the amusement I am about to provide.
First up: Transparency. It’s hard to sit through a healthcare pitch these days without this word coming up. Of course most entrepreneurs use it to mean clarity of doctor and hospital pricing. This may be my favorite card in the box because it shows a standard-issue middle-aged white guy in a suit saying this to his staff, “I demand transparency I both policy and clothing.” Too funny.
Next up: Pain Point. Seriously, every single entrepreneur seems to use this silly buzz word to describe the problem they are trying to solve. And the card doesn’t disappoint, showing what appears to be an older female entrepreneur pitching to a bunch of guys and saying, “Adult-diaper disposal has become a critical pain point.” How true, how true.
And next, my least favorite buzz word (because “ecosystem” isn’t in the box): Space. This word—space– has become the hip way of saying “sector” or “industry” or “market,” which served the world just fine for centuries but somehow went by the wayside over the last 20 years. I love how the flashcard lists “next big thing” as a synonym, along with “get rich quick.” Too funny. And the market example they use to illustrate the concept is priceless.
Of course, no pitch can occur without a discussion of Proof of Concept. Ideas are great, but without “establishing an idea’s implementability” (per the card), how can one really evaluate it’s viability? Best solution to this, ahem, pain point? The card suggests development of a proof of concept time machine. Now that is damn brilliant and I’m sure it would create an investible space, plus bring a whole new measure of transparency to innovation! And best of all? The explanatory quote, “Oh, this isn’t my best move, baby—it’s just proof of concept.” Hahahaha.
And last but not least, at least for today, that most pretentious of recently coined terms: Human Capital. We used to say things like “people” “employees,” maybe “team members” if we were being fancy. Now people have turned into a form of property (Abraham Lincoln, can you hear me?). I have a good friend who has coined the word, “Activity Monkeys,” to refer to the worker-bees implied by the words “human capital.” I think the latter is more dehumanizing (but not as funny). The photo/example quote in this one are particularly priceless.
There are quite a few words that I hope are in the next box, should I be lucky enough to find the sequel: curate, ecosystem, cram-down, milestone, pivot…I could go on and on. But for now, I will throw in one bonus word from the box. I haven’t yet actually heard it used in a meeting, but I am hoping to start a trend by publishing it here: Blamestorm. The word is defined as 1) assigning blame, especially defensively or randomly and; 2) to collaboratively identify culprits, e.g., “Let’s blamestorm our way of of this.”
ps–I can’t find these cards anymore on the web, which is a shame, because I’d love to start a new form of poker where these get used real time during meetings. The cards were originally sold by a company called KnockKnock.biz.