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Big Words for bears of very little brain

By Rudy Nadler-Nir

The original 1926 Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh said “For I am a bear of very little brain, and big words bother me.” This is probably the most profound statement on the issue of Big Words.

You know the scene. Someone walks into your office, pulls out a laptop and starts the presentation. It sounds something like this:

“With advertising click-through rates running a pitiful 0.5% or less, Web advertisers have turned to more-intrusive forms of advertising.

True viral activity is about people in the experience rather than specific content,” he blurts. “Technology enables the social currency that drives it, and keeps the fire going.”

Say what!?

Managing to get a word-in, you ask the person a simple question. Say, ask him how he can help you to grow your business.

“That’s exactly what I’m here for,” he says. “We offer end-to-end solutions and help you avoid analysis paralysis within your management. You can use us as a beacon council to maximise on your skills matrix and offer best value propositions to your customers.”

So far, almost 10 minutes into the session, you still have no idea what this person is all about and what he offers to do for you.

Big Words can be a subtle from of pressure – since most of us would die rather than admitting that we don’t understand or agree with a Big Word.

The trick with Big Words is to try deriving actual value from the dross, since your colleagues (and clients) are not likely to understand words and concepts you don’t understand yourself.

Consider the following options:

  1. Challenge the source: “Please can you define ‘Skills matrix’?”
  2. If you absolutely need the service – get a translator! Someone whom you trust and who can mediate successfully between you and the source.
  3. Give the person a specific brief, describing each business challenge or problem and inviting specific comments and suggestions. Some people write more simply than they speak.
  4. Finally – if you can’t understand each other – this is probably not the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

* Note: big Words in this article are from the Buzzword Bingo Website.

Visit Rudy Nadler-Nir’s ToingToing blog and more of his writings on buzzwords.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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