Friday, August 15, 2014

From Dogfooding to Synergy: Corporate Buzzwords

Just over a year ago, we looked at some of the most interesting terms used in wine jargon. You might recall that jargon is a term that refers to technical terminology that is associated with a specific activity, social group, or occupation. Jargon is everywhere around you, whether you realize it or not. Doctors often use medical jargon like myocardial infarction instead of saying "heart attack", while lawyers use all sorts of interesting Latin terms in what is often referred to as "legalese".

Today we're going to look at the meanings behind several corporate buzzwords. You've probably heard some of these business-related terms before, but do you actually know what they mean?

Analytics is a process in which data is analyzed for meaningful patterns through the use of statistics, research, and computer programming. Businesses are very interested in analytics because it can help them to predict and improve how their business performs.

A ballpark figure is just another term for a good approximation. Sometime around the 1950s, people started saying things like "give me a ballpark figure" to mean that they wanted an estimate that was almost exactly correct. It is thought to have first been used by atomic scientists who may have used it to refer to the area within which a missile would hit the earth.

The key to a successful business is synergy.
A newer buzzword is dogfooding, a shortening of the phrase eating your own dog food. While this sounds fairly disgusting, it merely conveys the idea that a company should use its own product or service in order to validate its quality, capabilities, and more generally, its existence. We saw this term come to life on a recent episode of Dragons' Den, a BBC show in which entrepreneurs make business pitches for financial investment from a panel of rich investors. Two young men were selling an all-natural dog food, and one of the investors asked them to eat some. So they did.

Another relatively recent business term is hyperlocal. It is often used in reference to data and interactions that focus on the residents of a well-defined community. For example, there may be a hyperlocal magazine in your area which focuses on providing information about the events going on in your community.

At some point in your life, you've probably been told to think outside the box. You likely know that this means you should think about things creatively, in different or unconventional ways. However, you might not know that the "box" in question is probably the famous "nine dots puzzle". It's the puzzle in which you're given nine dots laid out in a 3 x 3 grid and told to connect them without lifting your pen or tracing over the same line more than once.

If companies could only use one buzzword, they'd probably choose synergy. It comes from the Greek word synergia which means "working together". The merger of two companies is called corporate synergy, which generally results financial benefits for the merged company. The term is also often used in marketing, where it can refer to the use of studies, research, and information campaigns that promote the sale of products. However, it is also often used as a meaningless buzzword to make you think the person in charge knows what they're doing.

Have we missed your favorite (or least favorite) corporate buzzword? Let us know in the comments below, and please include a definition!