In disdain of bafflegab

There is an interesting article in today’s New York Times, entitled “Baffled by Business Buzzwords,” to which I tweeted the link yesterday, as “On corporate bafflegab and jargon hindering communication.”.  I have been thinking about it off and on since, and thought I’d commit some of those thoughts to pixels.

When an intelligent employee (like the original author) is willing to admit she is confused by some of the jargon and acronyms, you have to assume that this is a wider issue.  I wondered if anyone has tried to quantify what this missed communication costs the economy.  I further wondered if competitors who spoke more easily understood language fared better in the marketplace.

Or is this a case where the perpetrators of jargon want us to be in awe of their vocabulary.  Or maybe I’m considering this interpretation since I’m in the midst of reading Elizabeth Warren’s A Fighting Chance, where she describes the corporate resistance to the (eventually successful) attempts to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in these terms:

Financial reform was complicated, and the bank lobbyists used a clever technique: They bombarded the members of Congress with complex arguments filled with obscure terms.

Warren, Elizabeth (2014-04-22). A Fighting Chance (Kindle Locations 2637-2638). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Getting back to the words adduced in the original article, I admit that I have used “bandwidth” in the impugned sense, but only in a “bilateral” conversation (sorry, couldn’t resist).  I will think twice before doing so again, but must admit that I’m likely to be a repeat ofgender.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate Marilyn Katzman (the piece’s author):  she got me thinking, and is an excellent communicator.

Review: Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry

Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry
Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry by Jacquie McNish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a stalwart BlackBerry fan, this was a painful book to read. I enjoyed the parts about the rise (although disappointed with some of the business tactics employed), and was educated about how the fall (“spectacular” indeed) came about.

But I hold onto the hope implicit (to me, anyway) in the book’s last sentence:

“If the rise and fall of BlackBerry teaches us anything it is that the race for innovation has no finish line, and that winners and losers can change places in an instant.”

McNish, Jacquie; Silcoff, Sean (2015-05-26). Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry (Kindle Locations 4589-4590). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

On a number of occasions, people who have observed me using my Passport have asked about it, and admired it. Let’s hope there is a next edition of this book (the current one skips over Thorsten Heins and John Chen), with some sort of return to keyboard glory.

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Review: Ballistic

Ballistic by Mark Greaney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure why I keep reading this series. The protagonist isn’t the most pleasant of people, the situations he gets into (and out of) aren’t exactly credible, and this book badly needs a copy editor (“taught” for “taut,” cars with “breaking” issues when the correct spelling is “brake,” although there are a number of vehicles that get broken during the course of the story).

But I will be continuing the series (so long as Overdrive and the Toronto Library) make them available electronically.

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