If the headline of this post pulled you in because you were certain of the answer, I’d like to first introduce a few equally worthy contenders.
“Innovation.” In recent years, this contender has gotten a real workout. Many organizations often use “innovation” as the reason behind
how they are going to stay relevant, expand their customer base and keep pace with rapidly changing consumer preferences.
This word has become the crutch of many executives who struggle to articulate their organization’s strategies and vision. Saying, "Harnessing innovation as
a growth driver," is the kind of empty nonsense that inspires parodies.
The misuse of this word is unparalleled, greatly because when it’s misused it implies a nonexistent intensity. I always chuckle when organizations with
dated business models market their plans to "adopt a disruptive mindset and corporate culture."
Marketing managers who use this word tend to work for organizations that lack the size and agility necessary to back up their claim. They are more likely
to be disrupted than disruptors.
Many executives use the word "focused" or "laser-focused" to describe their organization’s strategy. It is time to retire this expression.
It’s also commonly used as a deflection. For example, when the CEO of a successful private company is asked when the group will go public, you often hear,
"Right now, we're just really focused on building a great company."
Anytime you hear someone say, "We're just really focused on…" it’s likely they've received paint-by-numbers communications coaching.
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On the surface, this word might seem reasonably functional. It’s likely, however, that you’ve heard this phrase from crisis communicators: "We take the
safety of our consumers very seriously.”
Any tech company that tracks the actions of its users has undoubtedly said, "We take the privacy of our users very seriously." I'm sure, too, that brand
managers for any major soft drink organization have insisted that they take the health of their consumers "very seriously." The grotesque overuse of this
expression has rendered it virtually meaningless.
Got a guess?
It's not "leverage," "impactful" or "scalability" either.
Many presenters use this word at least once within the first 30 seconds of their opening monologues. It's almost as if "I'm really excited to be here
today," is on a template made available to communications professionals. The use of the word wouldn't sound as bad if most public speakers weren’t also
wearing cold, bored expressions on their faces.
Using these words doesn’t set your organization apart from the competition. If your goal is to stand out, do so by avoiding clichés and overused words. Now
that’s something to get excited about.
is CEO of
Clarity Media Group
and author of “Pitch Perfect: How to Say it Right the First Time.” A version of this
originally appeared on LinkedIn.