Friday, February 19, 2016

Indecipherable Corporate Speak by Stuart R. West

I spent two high school years and four college semesters attempting to learn Spanish. To this day, I'm only able to recognize various words and form pointless sentences (i.e., "La rana es verde." Translation: The frog is green.). Still, I can understand Spanish a heckuva lot easier than the nebulous world of "Corporate Speak," an elusive language that not even cryptologists can decipher.

With over 25 years spent in the corporate sector, I'd certainly been around the puzzling language enough. One company in particular proved extremely fluent in Corporate Speak: the second largest label manufacturing company in North Kansas City, Missouri. I know...big deal, right? But the way the team of managers (count 'em, 42!) acted, you'd think we were performing miracles to benefit mankind.

I was the art department "manager" for many years. And every Friday, without fail (um, until the company began to fail), there was a mandantory manager meeting. We'd sit around a colossal meeting room and, one by one, we'd painstakingly explain what we'd been up to that week. Sheer dread filled me each time. Because the meetings always went on for hours and hours and....nothing was ever accomplished.

And I never understood a word of it!

The head of sales honestly thought he was a Hollywood mogul. Snappy dresser, sex addict (a tale better left untold), fast walker, and nonsense talker.
"C'mon, Stu, baby!" (To him, everyone was "baby." He didn't discriminate.) "You're killing me here! I want you to make those new graphics pop! Make 'em zing, make 'em sting!"

"Um..." I'd say.

"Let me break it down for you...we're looking at a completely new marketing paradigm here. To achieve dominant market visibility, we need to quit out-sourcing, fast track things to shoot to the top." This is when he'd start pacing the room, clasping lawyer hands.

"If what you mean is you want better graphics, then--"

"Now you're getting it, Stu, baby! Instead of our old business to consumer model, we need to aim high, shoot it outta the stratosphere, hit it off the table and bring it down to H2H!"

"Right. What's that mean?"

A thunderous hand-clap! "C'mon, you're killing me here! Stu, baby, it means 'human to human'! It's a way to bring functionality, play hardball in the new world series of marketing! Hey, look at Martha!" All heads turned to Martha. "She's a real goal digger! A goal digger! Aren't you Martha, baby?"

Martha nodded, a prim gold star smile pressed to her lips.

"But I still don't know what I'm supposed to be doing," I said. "Other than what I'm already--"

"Think smarketing, Stu, baby! Smarketing!" (I would've if I knew what it meant.) "Go the extra mile! Ride the loop, Stu, baby, ride the loop!"

Only thing I wanted to ride were my legs outta the meeting. But it went on...

"Think the It Factor! Be the It Factor! Plug in! Maybe some growth hacking's needed here!"

"Growth hacking..." I said.

Another clap. "I don't feel you Stu, baby! Meet me afterwards! We'll have a mydeation meeting!"

Groan. We did. Have a "mydeation" meeting. And I came out of there still clueless as to what a "mydeation" is.

See what I mean? Corporate Speak is a totally nonsensical language made of of meaningless buzz-words, sports cliches and fabricated sayings. It's enough to give Dr. Seuss nightmares.

During my long tenure in the corporate trenches, I always thought my experiences might form a nifty satire, a comedy of big business. But as when I wake up from a dream, a dream at the time I thought might make a good book, the cold harshness of reality and coffee hit me. Who'd want to read about the inner workings of a label company?

Which is why I wrote my Killers Incorporated series. I hope I found a way to incorporate big business satire into a suspenseful cat and mouse tale. The first book, Secret Society, is out. The second in the series, Strike, comes out next week. In the books, I detail the plight of Leon Garber (an empathetic {again, I hope} serial killer who only pursues abusers) as he goes up against the evil corporation of Like-Minded Individuals, Inc. Big business on a darkly comical and killer level.

Corporate Speak will ensue.