TBH IDC about your KPIs, what was FIFO or when EOP is. As a ‘normal person’ to me POS means Piece Of Shit, not Point Of Sale. But I run a business. Not knowing jargon is not a sign that I’m a bad entrepreneur. It is however a sign that entrepreneurship is bad at inclusion.
“But!” I hear you cry… “jargon makes my life easier! I love saying making hay instead of being productive,” (yes the double meaning is intentional). Let me tell you why it does not make life easier. Not for the old you before you learnt it all, and not for the sparkly fresh talent who could bring a whole lot to your startup.
It’s so easy to turn jargon into a weird form of bullying. It’s elitism in incognito mode. I know this fancy word or abbreviation therefore I art cleverer than thou. Not true.
Business school BS
Not everyone goes to business school to learn cool terms like bleeding edge, low-hanging fruit, and paradigm-shifting, but everyone has a point of view and skillset that makes them valuable. Just because you don’t know what a unicorn is doesn’t mean you can’t help to create one.
This kind of elitism does not foster meaningful relationships within the workplace. It doesn’t aid communication. It means that those starting out don’t just have to learn the job, but a whole bunch of time wasting, confusing, endlessly evolving and different-within-every-business jargon.
The crazy thing is that we know jargon is bad. I come from an advertising background. Specifically I’m trained as a copywriter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen and written brand tone of voice documents with snippets that say things like ‘we speak to the customer like we’d speak with friends over coffee’ or ‘we don’t use jargon or complicated terms’. It works because nobody wants to be made to feel stupid, and understanding what someone is saying to you makes the whole process of buying into something a million times easier.
Don’t we want the same thing from the people helping to build our business? How much budget do we put into culture or diversity and inclusion? Sometimes learning to type out social media instead of SoMe has a lot more impact than free pizza on Fridays.
“Sometimes I can’t even read a job description without having to Google certain terms.“
But how can this impact diversity? It’s really quite simple. As startups we’re very aware of the type of person that is generally accepted.
Our job now is to bring different people in. People with different points of view have different solutions to problems, and they could be a lot better if we’d just stop shutting them down by making them feel unwelcome with weird words. I mean, sometimes I can’t even read a job description without having to Google certain terms. One quick look at LinkedIn tells me that collaboration is a thing that we “foster”, and that as an entry-level employee I should be “enticed” by “phantom shares”. That sounds scary and not at all enticing. We have to nurture talent from the point at which they enter the startup world. If not they’ll just disappear, and that’s not good for anyone.
“Talking like an ordinary person is inclusive of ordinary, extraordinary and everything in between people, and that’s a pretty solid thing to be.”
We need to make this an inclusive world, and that means using normal language to make everyday life easier for people who didn’t go to business school (maybe they went to a different kickass school that doesn’t talk about ROI but loads about branding, for example), and also those who don’t have the resources to study for years and years but still have plenty to give. It takes extra pressure off of those with English as a second language, or whichever language you work in.
Talking like an ordinary person is inclusive of ordinary, extraordinary and everything in between people, and that’s a pretty solid thing to be.
Where to start
So how can you go about making it better? There are some easy fixes:
- Stop with the whole ‘no caps or emojis in emails’ thing. People have personalities and that is a good thing. Everyone says people buy people, but then don’t let us be human. The incredible Kei Maye makes a really great point in this post focused on the creative industries, and lots of other great points in her other posts. Professional is good, robot is not.
- Stop using acronyms. EOP and end of play are the same number of syllables, and if after all these arguments you still can’t be arsed to type six more letters then YES you are a bad person.
- Chat with new people in your business. Chat with people with different professions. Chat with young people and actually listen. Don’t get absorbed in your bubble and forget that referring to a presentation as a deck isn’t normal.
“When everyone starts talking like solutioning actually means something, stick to your guns.”
- Don’t join in. When everyone starts talking like solutioning actually means something, stick to your guns. You go ahead and talk about fixing a problem, or at least finding solutions, in the knowledge that everyone in the room will know what you are talking about, whereas Solutioning Simon is making some people real uncomfortable.
- Think about your audience. We will never be able to get rid of complicated concepts, but the least we can do is speak about them in an uncomplicated manner. Be aware of who is in the room/email chain and make sure they feel involved. If that means explaining the term in a non-condescending way then you know what you gotta do.
- If you don’t understand something, ask. You might feel stupid but I bet the person who can explain to you what a BS is in about two words feels stupider for using a stupid abbreviation in the first place. Hint: the B doesn’t stand for bull, but it might as well.
Chloe Cordon is founder and creative director at FLIRT, a creative advertising agency in Barcelona.