…mind you, they didn’t get thanked or promoted either.
Take this declaration, for example:
Our passion is to help our clients develop and deliver the strategies that will enable them to transform and excel. And today’s environment is one where the challenges are unmistakably complex and diverse:
• Delivering innovation hand-in-hand with efficiency
• Defining and delivering truly transformational outcomes
• Driving performance over extended timeframes
• Operating in the global marketplace, and
• Sustaining leadership in complex environments
Pretty standard stuff isn’t it? The kind of thing you see on almost every corporate website, brochure, presentation, report and so on. And you’ll see the short version on the bank, tech and property ads as you walk through an international airport, or browse a current affairs magazine.
But look a little closer and what does it actually say, or mean? What does it actually tell us about the company in question? How much more do we know about them? Sweet FA is the straight answer. It’s just full of all those words we expect – driving, delivering, transformational, innovation, passion – strung together in a meaningless stream. Throw in a few more of the truly vacuous culprits – empower, align, embed, engage, core, partner with – and you’ll get a feel for some of the genuine nonsense out there in UK plc.
A client wrote that section above, by the way, as his first draft for me to work with. It was eleven years ago, so I’m sure he won’t mind me using it. It hasn’t aged though. It’s the sort of stuff I see every day.
Because all over the land there are thousands upon thousands of intelligent people coming out with this guff day in, day out. People who can communicate well, sensibly, cleverly and clearly with friends and family outside of work. But stick ’em behind an office desk and ask them to write, and this is the sort of gibberish they’ll come up with, and, worse, be expected to come up with. Worse still, no one bats an eyelid.
Why do they do this? And why is it expected of them?
Take a look at the piece above again. It’s just a collection of abstract words that can mean anything you want them to mean – tacked together like a prefab building. It’s a form of writing that almost all modern businesses seem to use because that’s what they think they ought to be saying. It sounds like they do something important and useful, even though no one knows what.
It’s what George Orwell warned us of over 70 years ago, about the language of politics. It’s a language that cannot express facts or sentiment. It’s a dead language.
This sort of stuff is learned, practised, expected and demanded by businesses today, and propagated by management consultancies. I think they do it because it’s risk-free copy. But because it’s totally risk-free, it’s also totally use-free. Or useless, to use the correct word. It tells us nothing, it doesn’t differentiate. It’s just wallpaper.
But like I said, no one’s going to get fired for commissioning it. It’s fashionable, it’s not going to alienate anyone, embarrass anyone, give anyone cause for grievance or argument.
But it’s not going to get anyone anywhere, either.