Monday, May 7, 2012

25 Hot Buzzwords

Kate Lorenz, Editor

Have you ever witnessed a presentation that sounded impressive, but left you wondering what it all meant? Have you marveled at a colleague's ability to deliver a discourse consisting entirely of recycled phrases that sound brilliant but say nothing? Want to wow a potential employer with your "understanding" of today's workplace?

Irksome as office buzzwords can be, you've got to admit the ability to string them together (while tossing in a few "mission-criticals" and "customer-focuseds" for good measure) is something of an art-form. Even if you don't think you can use them with a straight face, just knowing these buzzwords can come in handy when you want to deflate a pompous consultant, impress a "buzzing" interviewer, mask the absence of substance in a report, or are simply at a loss for words but need to sound authoritative.

Corporate jargon and clich├ęs are so pervasive that their use - or abuse - has yielded a buzzword of its own: "Deja Moo" (the feeling you've heard this bull before). Here are 25 of today's most popular buzzwords and euphemisms making the rounds in boardrooms and cubicles everywhere.

Air Cover
When a senior manager agrees to take the flak for an unpopular decision, while someone lower in the chain of command does the dirty work. As in: "The CFO will provide air cover, while you reduce staff by half." (A term borrowed from the military.)

Alpha Pup
A market research term referring to the "coolest kid in the neighborhood." As in: "If the alpha pups go for it, we'll sell millions of them."

Bleeding Edge
Beyond cutting edge. So new, its creators aren't entirely sure where it's headed.

Business Ecosystems

When companies in the same markets work cooperatively and competitively to introduce innovations, support new products and serve customers.

Chips and Salsa
Refers to computers. Chips = hardware; Salsa= software.


A theory that a company can create new business, markets and industries by working with direct competitors, customers and suppliers.

Cookie Jar Accounting
An accounting practice where a company uses reserves from good years against losses that might be incurred in bad years.

A 17th century word, now back in fashion, that means to throw someone or something out the window. As in: "Let's defenestrate this marketing strategy."

Dial It Back

To tone down. As in: "Your sales pitch is too aggressive. Dial it back."

800-Pound Gorilla
A company that dominates an industry short of having a complete monopoly.


Used largely by technology vendors to imply that whatever they build for one part of your organization will work with whatever they build for another.


To create a product that won't be made obsolete by the next wave of technological advancements.


Brainstorm session.

Living Document
A document intended to be continually revised and updated.

Market Cannibalization
When a company's new product negatively affects sales of its existing, related products, i.e., it eats its own market.

How things appear.

Pain Points
A favorite of consultants used to describe places where an organization is hurting due to poor operating structure, technology or inefficiencies.

Pockets of Resistance

Another borrowed military term that describes a person or group that attempts to stall, block or kill a project.

Reaching Critical Mass

Having enough customers or market share to become profitable.


Taking content from one medium (books, magazine, etc.) and repackaging it to be used in another medium.

To reword a proposal with the hope of getting it accepted by people who didn't like it the first time around. As in: "It's the same concept, we've just reverbiagized it."


(Pronounced "zhoozh") To tweak, finesse or improve.

Value Stream
Six Sigma term that encompasses every step in the process of producing and delivering a product or service (whether it adds value or not).

Value Migration
Used in industries where there is little market growth, the term refers to the movement of growth and profit opportunities from one company to another.

White Space Opportunity

New high-potential growth possibilities that are related to but don't quite match the capabilities and skills of the organization.

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