Disrupt or be disrupted (or yawn) — one buzzword to rule them all

Linguist Geoff Nunberg has a great piece on NPR’s Fresh Air today about what must be the most over-used buzzword in business today: Disrupt / Disruptor / Disruption. Here are some juicy excerpts:

Buzzwords feed off their emotional resonances, not their ideas. And for pure resonance, “disruptive” is hard to beat. It’s a word with deep roots…. One way or another, the word evokes obstreperous rowdies, the impatient people who are always breaking stuff. It says something that “disrupt” is from the Latin for “shatter.”

Disrupt or be disrupted. The consultants and business book writers have proclaimed that as the chronic condition of the age, and everybody is clambering to be classed among the disruptors rather than the disruptees…. These days, people just use “disruptive” to mean shaking things up, though unlike my kindergarten teacher, they always infuse a note of approval….

The wonder is that “disruptive” is still clinging to life out there. There’s a market in language, too, and jargon starts to lose its market share when its air of novelty fades. “Thought leader,” “change agent” and “disruption,” too — as the words get stale, they’re in line to be disrupted themselves by scrappy new buzzwords that can once again convey an illusion of fresh thinking. That’s why jargon always has to replenish itself, the same way slang does — though like slang, it takes a while to work its way from the cool kids’ table to the outskirts of the lunchroom. It wouldn’t be surprising if some people are still saying “disruptive” a decade or two from now. After all, there are still people saying “far out” and wearing those big 1970s eyeglasses, too. The only difference is that slang owns up to being no more than a matter of fashion, while jargon always has to pretend that it’s something else.

Let’s hope this helps bring about the disruption of the ubiquity of Disruption!

Listen to the full story — very entertaining, and spot-on:


101 Clichés in B2B Marketing

smashing a lightbulb extinguishing an ideaCourtesy of a British company with the uninspiring name IAS, here is their own “viral marketing” campaign called 101 Clichés in B2B Marketing, from the “Lightbulb” (#001) to “The cliché within a cliché” (#101). They plan to continue the vigil with reader submission into the great uncharted territory beyond “101”, so send them yours now. I just submitted one on behalf of Wordlab, and of course I couldn’t resist what should be obvious:

The numbered list in general is one of the most overused  marketing clichés (just look at any magazine cover), and for some reason 101 is especially popular. Did it get started with 101 Dalmatians? Can “101” still be such a magic number to capture the consumer’s attention if everything has been turned into a “101 Things” list?

I’m working on my own list: 100,001 really smart business decisions. I’ve got the first one (“Make a Big List”), but I’m stuck coming up with the other 100k. Perhaps Wordlabers can offer suggestions here in the comments.


Kluster to capitalize on the wisdom of crowds

There’s an interesting article in today’s New York Times – Putting Innovation in the Hands of a Crowd – about a new startup called Kluster, “the newest in a lineup of companies using the Web to channel the collective wisdom of strangers into meaningful business strategies.” That has been the Wordlab philosophy for a decade now, minus that bit about having a meaningful business strategy.

The mention in the article of ideas “proudly found elsewhere” taps right into the ethos of Wordlab and our free community forum, the Wordboard:

Don Tapscott, the business strategy consultant and co-author of the book “Wikinomics,” said executives were quickly warming to the strategic value of “P.F.E.” ideas, or those “proudly found elsewhere.”

“Throughout the 20th century, we’ve had this view that talent is inside the company,” Mr. Tapscott said. “But with the Web, collaboration costs are dropping outside the boundaries of companies, so the world can become your talent.”

Mr. Tapscott, who credited Procter & Gamble with the P.F.E. concept, said executives can go overboard with the idea of outsourcing innovation if, in seeking such help, they expose too much of a company’s trade secrets. But so far, he knows of no business that has done so.

“They always err on the other side,” he said. “They don’t do enough.”

So, if you are in need of free, crowdsourced and possibly incentive-lubricated naming help for your company, product or goldfish, Wordlab is the place to be, with many registered members waiting to chime in with advice.


Centrifugal Deforest

I started a new blog, Centrifugal Deforest – Stock Market at a Lance. It will update each market day and is focused on the upcoming bear market in the US; whenever it comes; this year, next year or sometime in your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s future – I will be there.

The name doesn’t really refer to the stock market – hell, it doesn’t refer to the stock market in the least. And apparently I am breaking all the finer rules for smart blog-naming. So, perhaps the name is clunky, meaningless and impossible to remember.

Actually, it is not totally meaningless. Centrifugal Deforest was the term that sprang to mind some years back when I heard the pseudo-scientific theory that the Earth’s rotation is beginning to accelerate as the world’s tall trees come down. Exactly the way the ice skater spins faster and faster as the arms are brought inward.

So until I am forced to re-name, like virtually every project in the past, I’m sticking with it.