Posted by Amnon Levav, Co-Founder and C-IO (Chief Innovation Officer) at SIT – Systematic Inventive Thinking®

Corporate-speak and writing are notoriously laden with meaningless language and buzz. But digital transformation is bringing out the best (or worst) of the genre. This week I received an email from a multinational with a link to, and an excerpt from, a recent interview given by one of their innovation leaders. The first comment to this post is the excerpt that appeared in the mail.

First thing that comes to (my) mind is how generic it all sounds. Except for a hint about the category (“life science experience”) the text could be relevant, as is, to about any business in the world that uses whatever digital device, from a cellphone and upwards. When a shopkeeper in Kenya uses her MPESA to receive payments from her fellow villagers and calculates how many bars of soap she needs to bring from the nearest town next week, she is doing exactly what this longish sentence is touting.

Second, how desensitized must a brain be to not recoil from this densely packed collection of buzzwords. Using data to analyze the sentence we find that out of a total of 36 words, 14-18 are either full-blown overused buzzwords such as “leverage digital technologies” or “digital first mindset”, or regular words set in a mind-numbingly-overused context, as in “using data to analyze and predict what our consumers need”. (Thankfully, not one mention of “disruptive”.)

Third, the recurring fallacy that one can innovate just “by using data to analyze and predict” consumer needs. Data can and is used extensively to predict human behavior, and therefore consumers’, but this is a far cry from creating innovation. It is at best a necessary condition but rarely sufficient.

Reading a few details of the interviewee’s record, she sounds like an intelligent, interesting and even innovative lady. Why then, does a large and resource-rich corporation decide to “quote” her uttering this string of banalities, most probably copywritten by some communications department, rather than make the effort to describe what she does by using real words and sentences that mean something.

One depressing hypothesis is that this really is what corporate readers want to read. Sadly, it appears that in the corporate world there are still many who need to signal to each other that they belong to the same tribe, by repeating formulaic expressions rather than figuring out how to express what they really mean. The effect is doubly ridiculous when this pseudo-communication is conducted in the context of innovation, of all subjects; in this case purportedly to update on “some of the exciting development underway” (my italics).

Basing my opinion on hope rather than data or analysis, I tend and wish to believe that most of us, even those who are guilty of interest in corporate matters, don’t enjoy or want our minds to atrophy through exposure to no-sense-language.

What if we rebelled and refused to play along? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how this could be done.