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Buzz words: wake-up calls for our natural instincts

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Plus ca change

Why do some buzz words embed themselves in our vocabulary while others slide past the window with just a short burst of fame? Some take a long time to leave. Let’s hope “paradigm shift” and “no-brainer” are nearing the end of their useful life. 

Words that get traction align with our natural instincts. Fashionable buzz words are not new ideas. They get traction because they embrace the things we instinctively do best. 

Instincts are there to preserve and propagate the species. One is to form communities because, collectively, we have a better chance at survival and prosperity. No surprises that “collaboration” has got traction.

Ditto our ability to organize. The desire for food has fashioned agriculture. We no longer just kill things; we also grow them. We embrace agriculture because it underwrites our future. We instinctively know that “sustainability” is good.

We also like the path of least effort. It conserves energy and reduces stress. That has helped “free” get a whole new lease on life.

These inner drives explain why some technological changes rapidly install themselves in our daily lives. Social media dramatically enhances our ability to connect with others. What’s more, you can do it for free. Its rapid deployment should be no surprise.

The web introduced us to free communication. No more trips to the post office; no envelopes or stamps. Just write and send for immediate delivery, anywhere on the planet, for nothing. 

Nothing on the internet is actually free

Every complimentary download cost something to produce, and it’s only free because its part of a marketing effort to get you to do something else, like sign up for a trial or join a mailing list. “Free” is basically a marketing cost.

Some people balk at offering “freebies” online, yet they already do the same thing offline – the coffee shop that offers the tenth cup free; the free delivery with purchases over a certain amount; the free sample you get offered in the mall. 

It’s all costed into what you, or someone else, spends somewhere. The rules of marketing ROI in the mall don’t change just because it’s the internet. 

Buzz words are like wake-up calls

They prompt us to refocus on the things we do best. The danger is they divert us into expensive flirtations with the latest management fad.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, focus on where that buzz word is already working for you. Has anyone ever wanted to build a business that wasn’t sustainable? Or has managing a team or organizing production ever not been based on collaboration? 

By the end of the decade, these words will be replaced by others. The good thing about them is the buzz. We pick up on our natural affinity with them. They get us back to doing the things we should have been doing all along. Successful businesses don’t stop doing them. They simply look at ways of doing them better and applying them to a changing environment.

Reader Comments (1)

Hadn't looked at them that way before but you are right. Sustainable and transparent are two out there at the moment that are relvant to what we are about. I'm with you - happy that 'paradigm shift' has been remodelled out.

June 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBruce

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