7 Business Buzzwords: Love Them or Hate Them?

September 7, 2016 Alyson Shane

7 business buzzwords

Raise your hand if you’ve ever used a buzzword in a non-ironic way before (it’s okay, nobody can see you).

If you’re like the vast majority of people reading this article, then you’ve probably used a buzzword to describe a business practice, a person, or even what you do, and that’s totally okay.

We love to use new descriptive words in business. It not only adds some spice to our day, but new vocabulary helps us keep up with the tech and innovations that hit the market. However, the overuse of some popular words can become so repetitive that the word starts to lose its buzz.

Are you guilty of abusing any of the following popular buzzwords?

1. Guru, Ninja and Master

Guru Ninja Master

Unless you’re a trained mercenary from feudal Japan, you shouldn’t call yourself a ninja. Nor should you call yourself a guru, master or any high-level description of that nature.

Using descriptors like these could even undermine your position. Titles like “master” and “guru” imply that you’re the very best at what you do, but fields like social media and marketing where you often see these titles are constantly changing landscapes in which there is no true “guru” or “master” – there are just a lot of people trying to do good, decent work.

2. Paradigm Shift

This relic from every 1990’s corporate training video is actually a legitimate term used to describe a change in thinking from an old way to a newer one, and the model or method by which it’s happening.

A paradigm shift doesn’t happen by accident; it’s result of directed efforts and is often used in the business world to describe a fundamental shift within an organization, or what the business hopes to accomplish. A good example would be how agriculture fundamentally changed primitive human societies.

However, in order to avoid the figurative eye rolls in a business meeting, try to stick to more applicable terms such as “major difference” or “fundamental change.”

3. Pivot


“Pivoting” has become the commonplace business term to describe changing something that wasn’t working. Often business owners and startups use this term to describe their decision to change the direction of their company, often into a more profitable or popular direction.

The thing about this buzzword is that there’s nothing actually wrong with it. Pivoting, and knowing when to pivot, is a smart business practice, and there’s no shame in admitting that your company needs a new direction instead of hitting your head against a wall. But using the word “pivot” to describe all changes, like switching meeting rooms or finding a different coffee spot, is grounds for buzzword divorce.

4. Growth Hacking

growth hacking

According to Wikipedia, “growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.

As you can tell by the description, even Wikipedia isn’t 100% sure about who classifies as a “growth hacker.” This is because everyone who runs a business, creates a product, or interacts with a business' customer base in any way can describe themselves as one, rendering this title effectively useless.

5. Disruptive


Like many terms in this list, “disruption” is a legitimate word which describes an innovation that creates a brand new market which ‘disrupts’ an existing market. However, most people tend to misuse it to the point where it has very little meaning in day-to-day conversation,

A good example is Uber, which is a “disruptive” technology by fundamentally undermining the existing taxi industry and changing the way people get from place to place. However, many people tend to misuse “disruptive,” making a smaller scale change sound like something revolutionary.

6. Wow Factor

wow factor

Similarly to “growth hacking” mentioned earlier in this list, “wow factor” is an expression that’s so widely used that it doesn’t seem to have a true, tangible meaning.

The “wow factor” generally refers to (you guessed it) something that will “wow” your customers or intended audience, but it’s such a nebulous and overused term that it has essentially become verbal padding. It still has its place, but should be used only when something is truly surprising.

7. Lean

lean startup

If you’re involved in the startup community it’s likely that you’ve heard the word “lean” thrown around a lot lately. Building a “lean startup” refers to the practice of building a business based on what customers will use, not what you expect (or hope) they will use. It puts a focus on building products, measuring results and “validated learning,” which means trying out an idea and then measuring the results.

Like many other words on this list, “lean” is a legitimate term that has been integrated into common speak so much that has lost its significance. Reserve “lean” for the process of building an agile and efficient process. You’ll cut the fat on your bottom line and your business buzzwords.

Have we missed any buzzwords in our list – love them or hate them? Tell us in the comments section below.

About the Author

Alyson Shane

Alyson is a Winnipeg writer, content marketer and social media manager. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric & Communications from the University of Winnipeg and runs her own business providing businesses and individuals with their copywriting, content marketing strategy and social media needs. She lives and breathes digital culture and has been nicknamed the "Queen of the Internet" by her Twitter followers. When not online she can be found gardening, riding her bike or sipping fancy coffee.

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