Jargon: Ditch it

jargondefBy Elliot Roth

Jar-gon: (def.) Special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.

The vocabulary of a student leader should be streamlined so that she or he can convey ideas to all. In other words, don’t use jargon. The following six terms are confusing to everyone. Take my advice and try to use plain English instead. It will clarify your thoughts and quickly convey your message.

Pivoting is the act of changing strategy. It is also something you do in basketball, the point of rotation around a lever, and a late 90s rock band. When you discuss “pivoting” you are talking about changing business strategy and are normally opening up the floor to discussion. Instead of saying “let’s pivot” use an open-ended question like: “how might we change our business strategy?” This gets the point across to everyone in the room.

This term has been used so many times I’m not sure what it means anymore. The dictionary calls it “the introduction of something new.” That means your peanut butter and pickle sandwich is an innovation. That means the moving slime mold you found on the bottom of your freezer is an innovation. Innovation has become meaningless in this day and age and is bandied around by colleges that want to seem hip with the times.

What a silly French word. Quite recently, I asked a roomful of students what this meant and the response ranged from “business owner” to “world-changer.” An entrepreneur is a person; everyone agreed on that, but what this person does can range from electronic circuitry maker to garlic bread baker. In reality, it is far simpler to just say what you do rather than classify yourself as an entrepreneur.

When did ideas become oil? Ideas are not something to be mined and converted in a linear process. Each idea is unique and should be handled in a different way. The phrase “innovation pipeline” causes confusion without additional explanation. Instead of using this outdated metaphor, use something that will keep your communication clean. A pipeline signifies a process for ideas to come to life. Clarify what is going on during that process so that outsiders can easily understand how your group makes ideas happen.

Information Silo
When I first heard this term, I had no clue to what it meant. To the uninformed, it sounded like VCU had just opened up a farm for books. An “information silo” is a difficult idea to communicate but essential to understand if student leaders are to change their universities. All it means is that a group doesn’t share. Using that kindergarten concept of sharing is a better way to motivate people to collaborate.

There is a popular movement in the business community to create the best possible company culture. Culture as a word doesn’t mean anything; it incorporates many individual characteristics. The reason that changing culture is so hard is that the word incorporates qualities ranging from staffing to whether or not there is a foot massager for each employee. Every management problem should be dealt with individually instead of trying to change an entire system at once.

In the words of another University Innovation Fellow, “Cut the bullshit.” Jargon only confuses the situation. If a phrase has to be explained each time it is said, it should not be said. Speak plainly and your words will have a much greater impact.

IMG_9177Elliot Roth is a Junior in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. His interests are myriad and include slam poetry, music, international jewel thievery, being an EMT, and writing incredible articles as a Student Ambassador. You can reach him at rothet@vcu.edu and follow him on twitter @rothet.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *