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11 Business Cliches That Must Die a Horrible Death Now

Posted on | January 5, 2014 | Comments Off on 11 Business Cliches That Must Die a Horrible Death Now

Kool-Aid Dragon

Mr. Kool-Aid will bring about fiery death.

Nonsensical and annoying verbiage seeps into a business like water through a basement crack and blooms into colorful and pungent mold quicker than you can spray it with the bleach of sanity (consider that metaphor tortured!).

As junior execs and managers vainly attempt to become accepted by senior execs and C-levels, they adopt the same meaningless language and soon the clerks in the mail room are putting their heads together about shifting data-driven paradigms and showing real ROI.

These are the most recent and irritating cliches I’ve heard bouncing around boardrooms lately.

“Ask” as a noun.

I think people started using this to make it sound less like they’re asking you to do something or they have a problem you can help them solve. “I have a quick ask!” sounds a lot more in control and powerful than “I need your help.” There’s this “ask” that they have. It’s something they have but would like to give you. Because they’re awesome and give people things. And why wouldn’t you want one? It’s not like work. It’s an “ask.” Enjoy!

“Good Stuff.”

Instead of saying “good stuff” a person being honest would say “I have nothing else to say at this time.” I hear it often at the end of a conversation between an exec and a junior exec.

Mr. Brooks: “How’s it going, there sport?”

Sport: “Great Mr. Brooks! I just finished reviewing the Fleener account and found some really interesting data that I…”

Mr. Brooks: “Good stuff.”

“Drinking the Kool-Aid”

You would think business people would have enough tact to avoid connecting some innocuous comment about people agreeing with something to a horrible mass suicide, but you would be wrong. I’ve heard “drinking the Kool-Aid” in reference to everything from customers liking a product to self-referential comments like “I disagreed before, but I’m drinking the Kool-Aid now.” If only.

Note: “drinking the Kool-Aid” is a cousin to the less horrific, but suitably disgusting “eating our own dog food.”

Bleeding Edge

The actual meaning of bleeding edge is “extremely advanced technology with no current practical application, beyond the cutting edge of technology.” I keep that in mind when someone refers to their new phone or hybrid as “bleeding edge.” And I tell them that I feel bad they bought something that doesn’t actually do anything. Not to mention the fact that 99% of what people refer to as “bleeding edge” isn’t even close. 3D printers are awesome and THEY’RE not even bleeding edge.

Take it Offline

I like the idea that people suggest “taking this topic offline” while they’re actually talking in a meeting in which they are sitting next to each other. Apparently I have no idea what being online means anymore. In many cases those very two people who were just talking in meatspace go back to their desks and EMAIL EACH OTHER ABOUT THE TOPIC. But…you just…what? (drools, passes out and has aneurysm)

Hard Stop

Mr. Brooks: OK, let’s get started, but I have a hard stop at 11.

Mr. Brothers: But it’s 10:47 right now because you showed up 47 minutes late.

Mr. Brooks: Yeah, I know. But I have a hard stop.

Mr. Brothers: We all have things to do when this meeting is over.

Mr. Brooks: Right, but this stop is particularly hard.

Mr. Brothers: Well go on then, it’s 11 now.

Mr. Brooks: Good stuff.

Let’s Go Back and Sharpen Our Pencils

When someone asks you to go back and “sharpen your pencil,” you probably do the same thing I do. You look at the numbers you spent several hours putting together, run a few reports again, get the same results, bring the numbers back again unchanged (because they’re accurate) and then change them to whatever you’re asked to change them to.

 “It’s Gone Viral”

Not it hasn’t. Unless you and the rest of the world have vastly different opinions about what “gone viral” means.


Unlike most people who provide products and services, your product or service offers gobs of value. Your competitors actually suck value out of their customers’ faces like some kind of space leech. Your product or service keeps heaping value on your customers even when they’ve had enough. They end up lying there, smothered in piles of steaming value, gasping for breath.

Rock Star

Whenever someone tells me someone else is a “rock star” I ask if they mean they’re good at what they do or they trash hotel rooms and wake up covered in cocaine and hookers. Usually they say they mean the former.

Stretch Goal

A stretch goal, for anyone who’s never had one, is another way of your boss saying “We need to hit X to be successful but you should try to hit Y because I don’t trust you to try hard enough to hit X otherwise.” Or “August 2nd is our stretch date because it’s sooner than August 12th and sooner is always better except for wine and your bonus.”




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