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Purging Buzzwords Part 1: The Mother of All D Words

By Adam Stanley,  Global CIO and Chief Digital Officer

Business has always been plagued by jargon and buzzwords – and that’s before you even get to those texting abbreviations – SMH!

Jargon is everywhere and we all use it. We ask people if they have “bandwidth” as if they’re a network device. Consultants want us to “think outside the box” so that we “push the envelope” to create “cutting-edge” solutions. We talk about “leveraging” an employee. Why not open a “window of opportunity” to capture “low-hanging fruit”? Before we spend too much time trying to “boil the ocean”, we “take it offline” and “synthesize”.  Okay, you get it!

The problem is that buzzwords are more than annoying – they can be real impediments to progress. They can narrow our thinking, forcing us to cram strategies and plans into neat, little universally defined boxes. And they can obscure clear communications. So, it’s time to blow a few up that have been clinging on for too long. We all have a hit list of words we’d like to kill, and I thought I’d share mine in this series, so you’ll hopefully share yours. Hint: Mine all start with a “d”.

 Why Digital Needs to Go

For me, the first Big-D word on my hit list is digital. Gasp! How can that be so? Off the top, it brings to mind another phrase that went the way of the dodo bird. When I was an undergrad, my primary major was finance. My secondary major was international business. Now, I won’t say exactly when I graduated, but suffice it to say, it was when the idea of doing business outside of America was still hatching. We were taught how to think about the complexities of doing business when your clients were located in different countries with different customs, languages, and economies.

Today, given the tangled web of global supply chains, every business is international in scope. The phrase is no longer needed because it’s just understood. The world is flat and it’s hard to find a scalable business that doesn’t transcend borders.

Once Science Fiction, Now Business As Usual

There’s a parallel with the word digital. Almost 20 years ago, people first started talking about digital transformation and moving to digital business platforms. Back then, it seemed like science fiction and we madly studied the topic and posited on what it meant and how it would radically change business models.

Today, saying a business should go digital is a lot like saying the Pope should be Catholic. As you can’t build a house without some form of concrete, you can’t build a business without being digital. Duh. Every business is digital.

For business today, the greatest imperative is to find new ways to stand out and be relevant in an era of hyperconnectivity where brand loyalty is waning and consumer choices are increasing. As differentiation becomes ever more critical, the ability to leverage and manage information as an asset is a non-negotiable requirement. We can’t just talk about digital, we must continue finding new ways to transform our business – and, most importantly, to deliver personalized experiences to our targeted clients at every touch point.

So, one more time: using the phrase digital business is a lot like saying international business – it’s silly, it’s redundant, and it needs to die so we can adjust our thinking once and for all.

Digital is the first word on by Big-D Hit List. Stay tuned for the next word I think should be purged.

Be well. Lead On.

A version of this blog appeared on CIO.com.

Adam Stanley provides strategic and operational direction for Cushman & Wakefield’s client facing and colleague technology systems and infrastructure across all global business lines. Drawing on his more than 20 years of industry experience and as an integral member of the global executive team, Adam is a change agent with proven success driving growth, performance, talent retention and innovation.

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