Disrupt This

Disrupt. Leverage. Pivot.

How about we start saying what we mean?

As a fundraising consultant and teacher, I used to beat my head on my desk reviewing funding proposals loaded with every. effing. buzzword. some nonprofit thought would make them seem relevant. Commitments of sustainability and leverage. Promises to be impactful and transformational. Big words, meant to convey big ideas, but not necessarily translating to big results.

One problem is that overusing overused words tends to make one disappear into the crowd rather than stand out from it.

Standing out matters.

Charitable fundraising is a competitive blood sport. Actually, mere survival in the nonprofit sector is an endeavor not for the faint of heart. (Check out Vu Le’s analogy to The Hunger Games in his terribly named but wonderfully witty blog, Nonprofit With Balls).

Saying what you really mean, what you actually intend to do, toward what end, is so much more persuasive than squeezing in a term du jour. Your organization’s survival depends on it.

Entrepreneurs, it turns out, are just as guilty of lazy word choice.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard “disrupt” and “pivot” just in the last 30 days, I’d be able to invest in you all. Generously. If I had to give back a dollar for every time I used one of these words in the last 30 days, I’d be right back to wishing you well.

I think we use these words to build our street cred. To prove we’re reading the most important blogs and watching the right TED talks. That’s all fine and great. We’re human. We need validation now and then.

But I’m hungry to dig deeper. I am more interested in your vision and what you’re doing to advance it in the marketplace of ideas. I am intrigued by outsiders. Rule breakers. Feather rufflers. What distinguishes you from the flock?

Let’s bollix the worst of 2016 business jargon and start saying what we mean. In our own words. We have so many to choose from.

What words will you banish in 2017?

Published by

Megan M

Lawyer. Strategist. Rabblerouser.

7 thoughts on “Disrupt This”

  1. Ugh, I’m rolling my eyes in every meeting. Elevate. Let’s try this: here is a problem…so here is what we’re going to do. And then maybe we’ll have a snowballs chance of people understanding and actually doing the thing to fix the problem. :/

    Happy to have discovered this blog by the way, thank you!

  2. As a consultant to predominantly to high-tech clients, I wish I could ban the word “innovation”. Instead, I am advised to use it, because it’s a tag that helps potential clients place me before we have an opportunity to directly explore what I have to offer.

    I used to work at a big company that had an internal “buzzword bingo” game: anyone could print out a bingo card with random buzzwords that were most popular at the time, and bring it to meetings. Once you strike the last work from the card, you shout: Buzzword Bingo! At first, people got offended, but gradually many saw value in it.

    1. Buzzword Bingo! I love it. A little levity can go a long way (especially in meetings, amiright?)

      There are definitely some words we just can’t escape and times we can’t escape them. If it resonates and keeps things moving, sometimes it’s best to save the fight for another day. Or another word.

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