Buzzwords - they’re not called that because of the buzzing annoyance they create when they’re flying around your head in a room full of people, but instead because they offer a super-quick method of citing something which really isn’t actually that simple under its skin.
Buzzwords come in many shapes but not in so many sizes as they’re nearly always short and sweet. That is the point - buzzwords sum up concepts in something which is easily communicated and digested. Some buzzwords have fairly simple meanings but others look like true business, corporate or technological jargon. Most had very specific meanings when they were conceived and have now essentially become bastardized slang for something much broader and less specific. Buzzwords can convey meaning in short-from - from synergies to alignments, disruptions to ideation and innovation, teams can communicate on the same plane of thought via the use of buzzwords.
So what is the problem with buzzwords?
Buzzwords become pretty detractive from communication when they’re used improperly. Obviously, no one is born with a knowledge of buzzwords, they’re instead wrought in the fires of meetings and conferences, but because they’re such simple words that are given to occasionally very complex topics, they can become pretty far removed from their true meanings.
Semantics are easily manipulated and can be misleading and a word is free to evolve. Still, in many environments it is a tremendous advantage to know the true meaning of a buzzword. They ought to be treated as any other vocabulary - you wouldn’t use the word antidisestablishmentarianism if you didn’t know what it meant, would you?
This largely depends on the industry in which you’re using your buzzwords. Some industries use broader and more easily understood buzzwords. There are just so many examples here, from front-end to impact. Other buzzwords, like agile, are deceptively simple and have rather more complex origins.
If you use the word agile in a management or business environment and people will probably interpret it as quick-thinking, adaptable and flexible. In a technological environment, agile might be viewed as something with a far more specific meaning.
In 2001, 17 leading figures in software development created the ‘agile manifesto’ which determined a unifying methodology for developing software. This process essentially determined that the most efficient development cycle would be one which is incremental and responds on the fly to any changes and glitches. This contrasts with alternative methodologies which would seek to build a final product before launch.
Another buzzword example is ‘scrum’. A scrum is a rugby term - it’s a set piece that is designed to recycle the ball back into play. A scrum’s immediate connotations seem to be that of a meeting. Heads down, locking together, working as units. This is largely what the buzzword has become - another term for a team that has meetings. You set tasks, go off and work and then scrum down later for a regroup and assessment. Originally, though, this buzzword was born in the technology world.
A scrum is actually a component of the agile method for managing development work. It’s essentially a method of dividing labour for maximum efficiency and it has quite specific components. Within an agile methodology, a team will divide labor into small timed tasks and have scrums at set increments to overview progress. Developers will usually work in teams of 3 to 9 and work in sprints, which are short periods of around two weeks.
Sprints, scrums and agile, is it all worth the confusion? Well of course! These kinds of developments have skyrocketed the productivity of development teams worldwide and they offer a serious opportunity to structure and streamline workflow.
Buzzwords are great because they’re a key component of achieving efficient communication in the workplace. On the other side, not everyone will interpret your buzzword in the way you intend so just like any other word, understanding the meaning will guide the way you use it in conversation.