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As a leader, you need to choose your words wisely.

Buzzwords cycle through our offices, assets and conferences every year. At best, they alert us to relevant and emerging trends. At worst, they dilute messaging and create communication barriers. Sometimes they just make us groan.

The Executive Education unit at the Daniels College of Business believes that in moderation, buzzwords can keep us curious and sharpen our proverbial saw.  Here’s our 2017 buzzword pocket guide.

  1. Intrapreneurs: These are visionaries for a stand-alone projects within a larger company. Pretty simple. Very empowering.
  2. Push tolerance: This is built from two phrases: “pushback” (an unfavorable response) and “fault tolerance” (surviving failure). It’s about testing the capacity of a strategy, idea or theory to survive and endure resistance.
  3. Storytelling: This is still holding on, but with good reason. Because decisions are emotive, customer connection is paramount. And that happens with a story.
  4. Thought Leadership: Another phrase with longevity. And it’s evolving. Once code for credibility in a discipline or industry, it now demands more: anticipation of trends, influencing others and multi-channel expression.
  5. Data science: This is huge. With the IoT (Internet of Things – the wifi connection of various physical devices like smartphones, thermostats and vehicles) you’ll need to learn to store, track, analyze, protect and glean both insight and correlations from myriad data. This skill blends social science, statistics, computer science and design.
  6. Microservices: These are smaller, modular applications with a singular business capability. They snap together with others (think Legos) to form larger applications. Companies can offer myriad service combinations, innovating and shifting offerings with ease.
  7. VUCA: This acronym, borrowed from the military, stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, and is a catchall for the overwhelming state of our world. We know a lot about this one as it is driving aspect of our leadership model.
  8. I-Gen: This is the generation that follow millennials. While demographers have yet to pin down birth year boundaries, we know they have had widespread use of the internet from a young age and grew up during the Great Recession, which gives them a potential sense of uncertainty and unrest.

How & When to Use Them

Be Intentional: These phrases can be impactful when used selectively and with intention. But they lose meaning quickly when simpler language could have sufficed. Tread lightly.
Give Context:  Rather than dropping buzzwords into conversation with colleagues or employees, a good strategy is to include them in employee education formats. Talk about what they mean in the context of your company.
Educate: Don’t assume awareness of understanding. Explain your interpretation, ask for other’s thoughts, and discuss why they matter to your organization’s growth and relevance.
Customize:  Get more specific. Because these concepts are already overused, they need a customized twist. How will your company define this buzzword? How will you make it multi-dimensional? How will you make it your own?

Make sure your buzzwords aren’t a buzzkill. While potentially divisive, in moderation, they can inspire innovation and even differentiate your organization within a cluttered marketplace. Post this pocket guide in your office and see what happens.

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