In the popular, five-season, 1960s television comedy Get Smart, the notoriously unreliable ‘Cone of Silence’ appeared often. The ‘Cone’ was a sound-proof polycarbonate device to protect the most secret of conversations among the functionaries of CONTROL.
The joke was that the ‘Cone’ rarely worked properly. It strained conversation and prevented communication. It interfered with effective operations. Even basic person-to-person communication was nearly impossible.
Today, overbearing consultants and phony thought-leaders have their own ‘cone of silence.’ In this case, the cone is not a physical apparatus but annoying enterprise code words. They use their secret, winking vocabulary whenever they haven’t a clue of what they are talking about.
These code words silence authentic business conversation. The outcome of these inane exchanges is sadly hilarious. It’s on par with the Emmy award-winning satire of Get Smart. Here are prime examples of consultant gobbledygook –
Value – ignorant consultants employ this dauntless code word when they have no idea of specific merit, worth or even what they are talking about. It attracts attention through guile and deception. It is used often as a ridiculous antecedent, such as ‘value network’ or ‘value proposition.’ The dubious value code word appears most often when business benefits and advantages are simply absent.
Intangibles – Specious thought leaders use this code word to confuse real benefits. It is soaring nonsense. Intangibles are tacit, impalpable, immaterial and incorporeal. Self-absorbed solipsists claim they are the only ones equipped to divine and convert the magical intangibles for the great unwashed. Fact is, real people convert intangibles to real, worthwhile impact and outcomes all day long. It is called work, doing your job, making a contribution, creating prosperity.
Intellectual – Also uses as an antecedent, such as ‘intellectual capital, (IC)’ or ‘intellectual property (IP),’ it is also nonsensical. Perhaps there is some merit in high-minded legal scholarship and lofty adjudications. However, these terms are well out of the reach of ordinary business people. They are best retired. Business people work with nouns/things and verbs/actions, not silly qualifiers and arcane legalese.
Narcissistic consultants use embellished verbiage to obfuscate normal communications. Their stock-in-trade are these code words, pseudo-profundity, platitudes and pontifications. Beware.
What’s also needed is a modern-day, working version of the ‘Portable Cone of Silence.’ It’s for consultants, thought leaders, managers and other advice people. It is to protect us from their code words, gibberish and mumbo-jumbo. Let them, not us, gag on their own choking exhaust.
When a consultant or candidate says they will show you, ‘…the intangible value in your intellectual assets,’ then politely conclude the meeting/interview and escort them down to reception and wish them a good day.
The antidote to this nonsense is to simply ask for a description of real benefits and advantages. Authentic, good and beneficial contributions and interactions propel The Social Enterprise and knowledge management. People are clever. They can see advantages very clearly. Give them a break.
What’s your favorite enterprise code word?