Buzzwords thrive because they’re immensely useful as a shorthand when all parties involved have a common understanding of the concepts they represent — big ideas can be packed into just a few syllables. But as state and local chief information officers pointed out to StateScoop in recent interviews, buzzwords can also be pernicious.
“I think buzzwords are really dangerous to use because your business partners don’t understand,” Nebraska CIO Ed Toner said. “You really should be describing what you want in plain language. With buzzwords, no one wants to challenge you because they don’t want to show they don’t understand this hip, cool jargon.”
CIOs said they often work with people who misunderstand various terms and that careless application of language sows confusion. Maryland CIO Michael Leahy said buzzwords erode the integrity of language that organizational leaders depend on to do their work.
“We’re changing long-standing definitions of words that make them less meaningful,” Leahy said.
Minnesota CIO Tarek Tomes told StateScoop it’s a constant challenge to overcome some of the notions his partner agencies have developed surrounding the most common buzzwords.
“We spend an extraordinary amount of time almost fighting against the buzzword and the connotation that’s been attached to the buzzword, where you can’t even lead with the value of what it does because you’re immediately confronted with this larger realm that the buzzword created that you have to address,” Tomes said.