“Beware Bull**** Bingo! Because your team isn’t inspired by your buzzwords!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Buzzwords are lazy.
And enough of being polite. You can deal with it.
Too many organizations and the leaders who lead them fall into the shallow depths of cliche, failing to recognize that it takes more than just some fancy words to align to a faster future. And as is often the case, your staff will see through your real lack of ideas before you do.
Back in the ’90s, a great game swept the Internet – Bullshit Bingo. You and your co-workers could download a series of randomized Bingo cards, but instead of letter/number combinations, each square contained some type of corporate buzz speak. They looked like this:
People would take them into meetings, and cross off a square when a particular buzzword or phrase was used. Once you completed a line, you would quietly mutter “bullshit” under your breath. Good times – the craze swept corporate meetings and events for quite some time, and leaders really had no idea that their team was secretly laughing at them!
It was described years ago in this article:
Ray Mundt, chairman of Unisource Worldwide Inc., has just learned that some of his employees have been playing a popular game called “buzzword bingo,” in which participants track the jargon bosses utter at meetings.
“I don’t know how this is going to interface with the communications side. I think it will deter from it.”
The nineties are supposed to have given the world the transformed workplace — employees who embrace liberating technology working in organizations liberated of hierarchies and craving the team input of the working stiff.
Maybe so. But in cubicles and conference rooms at companies from annuity sellers to paper distributors, drones and peons are slyly mocking the new corporate culture and cliche-spouting bosses. One of their weapons is the underground game called buzzword bingo, which works like a surreptitious form of regular bingo. Buzzwords — “incent,” “proactive” and “impactfulness,” for example — are preselected and placed on a bingo-like card in random boxes.
Players sit in meetings and conferences and silently check off buzzwords as their bosses spout them. The first to fill in a line wins. But in deference to the setting, the winner typically coughs instead of shouting “bingo.”
Buzzword bingo empowers the peons
Wall Street Journal, 9 June 1998
I often tell the story on stage, as an example of how organizations tend to slide into a cultural wasteland, both through the inaction they fall prey to but also through the banalities that drive those actions. Buzzwords are barriers to progress because they imply an easy way out, a temporary strategy based on fads and FOMO (‘fear of missing out), and narrow thinking. Here’s a clip from Denver some years back, in which I’m relaying the story.
Want to play the game? Visit the site to generate a series of random bingo cards! It’s at buzzwordbingogame.com/cards/bullshit/. You’ll be up and quietly howling with joy in your next meeting! As well, there are some great clips online to give you guidance – try this one!
Is the issue of overreliance on buzzword-based business initiatives real? Oh yeah! Consider this all too real example from 2016.
Eight out of 10 marketing executives believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will revolutionize marketing over the next five years, but only a quarter (26 percent) are confident they understand how AI is used in marketing and only 10 percent are currently using it, according to a survey by account-based marketing provider Demandbase. The study is done in collaboration with Wakefield Research.
Overall, the research shows that marketers are excited about the potential AI brings to the world of sales and marketing. While they believe, it has the potential to significantly impact the entire industry, there is a clear discrepancy between this enthusiasm and marketers’ confidence in how to implement AI into their marketing programs.
AI is The New Buzzword, But Few Understand: Study
15 December 2016, CXOtoday.co
In other words, everyone is excited about a trend, but doesn’t really understand it, and is barely involved with it. And yet, even so, everyone is talking about it. This isn’t to say that AI isn’t important – it’s an older article, and is a good example of the weird state that often exists. (AI is actually hugely important!)
How many leaders and companies do you know who jump on a trend because of “FOMO”, and really have no idea what they are doing and why they are talking about it?
Is it any wonder why people are laughing at you?