No More Presents

I’m no better than anyone else.

 

I walk through the streets, headphones on, same as all the rest. We may as well have fish bowls on our heads like astronauts outside their spacecraft. The only thing that makes me better, if only by the breadth of a hair, is that I’m not texting while walking. I’d like to say it’s some sense of decorum that prevents me, but it’s probably just a fear of walking into something or someone. I confess to succumbing to frustration at times and not deviating course from someone clearly incapable of staying on one.

 

“Uncouth buggers,” I think, dipping a shoulder gently but with purpose.

 

“Sorry!” they say cheerily, eyes never really looking up.

 

I don’t even like to take calls on my mobile in public places let alone text. I end up talking very low and feeling like some shut-in, heavy-breathing phone-sex addict. My equivalent of “what are you wearing” is “how long will that take and how much will it cost?”

 

Subtle distinction.

 

I ducked into a bar at the airport not long ago. I sat down, ordered a drink, and while the barman was making it I pulled out my phone and checked to see if my flight was on-time. This kind of app is one of the few redeeming characteristics of modern mobile technology, I find.

 

After tapping a few things and learning I was on-schedule, I caught a glimpse of an older gent sitting next to me with one stool in between.

 

He was subtly shaking his head disapprovingly.

 

I knew what for, but I wasn’t! I swear! I was just checking my flight, not Snapchatting or checking in or some such thing.

 

“It used to be that when you went to a bar you went to actually strike up a conversation over a drink.”

 

Nothing more needed to be said. This was an argument I couldn’t win. I put my phone in my pocket with great ceremony— like lowering a casket slowly and sacredly into the ground for internment.

 

We spoke for the better part of half an hour. He was an eccentric– possibly lascivious, definitely alcoholic, and obviously well-to-do. He had flown up to Boston from the Vineyard so he could have supper at this club, spend the night in one of its rooms, and then fly home tomorrow. I gathered he did this weekly and whenever the mood struck him.

 

This is my moral beacon.

 

Just last week I was in the barber shop. It’s a typical four or five chair place. The youngish, perhaps early thirties, guy next to me is texting the entire time. His arms were well outstretched, low toward his knees so no hair would sully his phone. The barber occasionally tried to make conversation with him. Most times the customer never even looked up. “Yeah. Yeah.”

 

“Shall I shave off your eyebrows?”

“Yup. Yeah.”

 

That didn’t happen. I wished it would have.

 

As I’m watching this unfold, his barber and I catch eyes and exchange little rolls.

 

It was at this time that I became aware that my barber had said something to me that I completely missed– so engrossed in the terrible texter beside me.

 

Pulled into his insidious vortex of hell.com.

 

And now Google piles on with the cruelest cut of all.

 

I need a self-driving car like a fish needs a self-driving bicycle.

 

Driving is one of the rarest of occasions when one can be, should be present.

 

Google wants to take this present back.

jetsons

No more hearing the engine wind as the gears climb toward changing before falling into a lower rumble. No more eyes canvasing the terrain (whether to behold it for all its beauty or to guard against Big Wheels or small dogs). No more stereo cranked up. No more singing full throat in your own little leather appointed sound room. No more sun in the face or wind in the hair.

 

Great. Soon we’ll be hurdling “forward” in the Jetsonsmobile at the speed of (yellow) light.

 

I’m no Zen Buddhist. I’d rather eat bees than listen to Eckhart Tolle drone on. But there is more than a little truth to the idea of interconnectedness. And the more we let having “friends” on Facebook supplant getting together with our friends, the worse we’ll be. The more we Snapchat and less we chit-chat over coffee, the more isolated we’ll continue to become.

 

Alas, that genie is out of the bottle and into the mobile phone I fear, and we will continue to move amongst other people but never actually with them. We’ll know the joy of arriving with no idea how we got there. No more here. Just turn-by-turn there.


Poster Boy

At some point we have to looimagesk in the mirror and see how we are “contributing” to a world we’re too often embarrassed to live in. Today is such a day for me.

We are making heroes of the very least among us, and it must stop. I am. You are. We are.

What terrorists and mass-murderers do is widely misunderstood in my view. The ‘sane’ ones, that is to say those who are not intellectually impaired but spiritually and socially fractured, use murder and mayhem as means not ends. It’s simply the surest way to be heard. And seen. They have some agenda, and since Oprah won’t invite them to her couch, Stern won’t grant them airwaves, Anderson Cooper won’t return their call, and so on, they choose the one thing American media can’t resist— the Big Bad. Then every spotlight, every microphone, every camera, every blog, every everything is obsessively focused on them.

It’s entirely wrong to condemn the media for this. It feeds us what we beg for. We devour it. We spread it. We want it. As a boy I read In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter to find out what makes a person do the unthinkable. Some people, however, take an almost prurient interest in blackest souls. Virtually all of us are on this continuum, somewhere between morbidly curious, obsessed and fawning apologists.

One such person, evidently at the very extreme end of the spectrum, is Kayvon Edson. Unlike the ’sane’ murderers I mentioned earlier, it seems Kayvon is the other kind. The clearly deranged threat.

How can I know this not twelve hours after the world knew of Kayvon? Well, I read how he was walking around the Boston Marathon memorial in a black veil. I read that in the newspaper. It was a lead story. Kayvon was trending on Twitter too!
dylan
Then, without even having to be asked to, I went to Facebook to see if Kayvon might have some words of wisdom to share there. He did.

Kayvon’s cover photo is not of his shining face; it’s of his probable idol— Tsarnaev The Younger! Clever, eh? But wait— there’s more! The picture had a caption. It reads: Had A Blast At the Marathon!!!

That’s right. Three exclamation points. Subtle.

If you’re yelling at your computer right now,”He probably didn’t even do that! Someone put the image up after the news of what he’d done”, you’re right. And you’re entirely missing the point. And you’re making mine.

That I would voluntarily investigate this person is gravely disappointing to the point of shame. That someone else would make light of both Kayvon and Tsarnaev’s crimes (against humanity)and draft off of it is vulgar on its face. And spreading.

Heroin addiction is running wild again in the streets of cities and towns. It’s scary and a blight.

I would argue that our addiction to Big Bads is more pervasive, more destructive, and more treatable. Thank God for small favors.

When drunks or loons run onto the field during a game, broadcasters turn the camera away or go to commercial so as not to encourage more attention seekers. Let’s do that for Big Bads.

Of course we have to report what happened. The public has a right to know and the press has an obligation to cover it. But let’s not mention names of perpetrators. Let’s deny them their fifteen minutes— to say nothing of their book deals, jailhouse marriage proposals, or Facebook ‘likes.’ They want an audience. Forget ‘let’s not give it to them’; let’s not be it. Let’s not spend precious hours or even days trying to unravel the yarn. It’s not that interesting.

If we had done that with (redacted), (redacted) might not have felt the urge to jog in his murderous footsteps in a thinly veiled homage. And if (redacted) didn’t do that, we wouldn’t be googling (“redacted”) to see what he looks like, what his favorite bands are, or what President he’d be according to his Facebook quiz.

I think you get my point.

I feel like there should be some cleansing platitude inserted here. “Be kind to strangers.” “Care for the mentally ill.” “Live every day to the fullest.”

I’ll settle for, “Don’t make fame of infamy.” Hey, it’s a start.

I don’t want media companies to be better than me. I want them to help me be better. I need all the help I can get. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe not.


(Dis)(Re)connect

I think this whole mess is about connections or our lack thereof. I also believe that connections are our salvation. But real ones. Not IP ones. Not iConnections.

The only way you could do something like what happened at the marathon is if you viewed all those bystanders as separate and apart from you. At this point whether “you” is a person, a group of people, a nation or a region is unclear. But I’m sure “you” feel disconnected. Otherwise you’d be blowing up yourself, right?

On a macro level I think that since the harmonic convergence of the 60s the world is now retreating back into our respective corners. Turns out love is not, in fact, all we need. Seems we need stuff, wealth, power, guns and devices. Lots and lots of devices.

The Us vs. Them that’s playing out on the global stage is mutated a bit on smaller scale. It’s not Us vs. Them but Me and You. It’s less sinister and corrosive but no less dangerous. Whereas Us vs. Them (UvT moving forward) frequently takes the form of aggression towards our neighbors, MaY takes the form of regression. It’s a retreat into our shells. Our heads ensconced in headphones and soon Google Glasses if Satan is real as I strongly suspect, we plug into our vWorlds and disconnect from our real ones. Sorry, the real one. We all come at it differently, but there’s just one. And we share it.
isolation
I see tweets and headlines today about “What can Tech do in response to yesterday’s bombing?” or godforbid “What can advertising do…?”

Nothing.

I take it back. There is something.

Lay down your weapons. We can’t app or advertise our way out of this jam. Don’t push the quick fix. These will be the hard yards. This is the proverbial crawl through glass. We have to actually do something. Not talk about doing something. Not create a “something experience”. There is no app for this.

It’s not about starting a movement. It’s about moving. Action.

And real discussion. We obviously need to find out who did this and handle our business there. But there’s a million or more right behind them. That’s one place I agree with Gun nuts. If you take an AK away bad guys will come up with something else to murder and maim. That’s sadly true. We are obligated to make it harder, however, but it’s a fair point. Guns do kill people but it really is true that it’s actually people that kill people.

And so people have to start talking to people again. In the pubs. In the coffee shops. At soccer games. In the lunch room.  Around the dinner table. Disconnect the devices and reconnect with our fellow humans.

Gawker.com will still be there when we get back. The question is will our first-person interactions make third-person social voyeurism less appealing.

I guess we’ll have to google that bridge when we come to it.

(Yes, I’m aware I’m delivering this sermon via blog. Boston wasn’t built in a day. But it was blown up on one.)


The Wonder Years

(Overheard by no one. Ever.)

“I wonder what happened at the Olympics.”

“I guess you’ll have to wait until you get home to find out.”

###

“What do you think she’s like? I wonder what kind of music she’s into, books she’s read, where she’s from…”

“Assuming asking her is off the table, see what you can find out from one of her friends.”

###

“I’ll bet you Michael Phelps is straight as an arrow. He’s probably in bed at eight every night so he can get up and train at five-AM or some ungodly hour. I kind of feel bad for him. He can’t kick back and just do the things dudes do.”

“Yeah. He’s probably never even been to a party. Sucks for him.”

###

“Did you know Anthony Weiner originally wanted to be a weatherman? What a tool. He’s such a mensch it’s pathetic. He’s like the central casting ‘shirt off his back’ Boy Scout.”

“I know. The guy’s gotta loosen up a little. He’s making the rest of us look bad.”

###

“I’m worried about her. I think she’s working herself to death. I think she wants to prove to us that she can handle the freedom of college. We trust her. I just want her to enjoy herself– when she’s done studying of course.”

“The key is make friends and not look back and say ‘I wish I lifted my head up a little and enjoyed myself some.”

If Only We Could Unknow Things

Technology has made the world incredibly small and very translucent in so many ways. The whole concept of not being able to know something or to access information about it instantly from anywhere is almost unthinkable.  This is not a diatribe on “Big Brother” and our loss of privacy. The government (or its shadowy puppet-masters if the blogosphere is to be believed) can watch me all they like. I’m not that interesting. Rather, I’m speaking about our loss of those things that were so common and so foundational for so many. The curiosity, opinion rather than ‘fact’, and the dialog that surrounded us are in short supply these days. The ubiquitous “I wonder…” most of us grew up with has gone the way of the hula-hoop. Many of life’s mysteries, writ large and small, have been ‘solved.’

In many ways this is a good thing. Finding what you’re looking for quickly and verifying it against multiple sources is nearly always a good thing.  “Why belabor through debate what you can know,” has its place. But I can’t help but wonder if this seeming God’s-eye, three-hundred-sixty-degree view of everything actually acts as blinders more often than not. I worry we take so much in we retain very little.

“Did you hear about the shooting in Aurora?”

“OMG. Will Ferrell just called Kristen Stewart a ‘trampire’!!!”

Nothing sticks for long. There’s always more right behind it. Size gets distorted as everything gets force-fed into 140 characters or a million Facebook comments.

The Ephemeral Empire.

But mostly I worry we’re greatly diminished by our growing inability to understand and go beyond what we cannot see, what isn’t captured and made data.

To market a product (or create one) people used to engage in copious amounts of people-watching. Cognitive Anthropologist Dr. Bob Deutsch once told me that successful marketers are always astute observers of “people in life”, like Diane Fossey observed and came to understand gorillas in the mist.

Now we have behavior monitoring. Someone hit your website. Drop a cookie and work backwards as to how they got there. Look for ‘likes’ and funnel them at the point of decision.

Fine. For salmon.

 

The Deeper Part of the River

 

But if that’s all you’ve got, you’re in trouble. Our obsession with action has left us with decreasing understanding of why (or why not) the things happen. We only know that they happen or are statistically probable to happen.  I’m not advocating going back to the bad old days of “birds of a feather” bucketing where nine of ten products were aimed toward “soccer moms.” We’re way past that. But I don’t want to lose sight of the things that happen that can’t be measured, captured, or categorized. What makes folks tick, not just what makes them click. Trusting your eyes and ears as much as your data. Or more.

Like the “Ghost on the Canvas” from one of my favorite Paul Westerberg songs, too often, “people don’t know when they’re looking at soul.”

Pity.


Olympic Torched

The London Olympiad is upon us, and I for one am thrilled. In a ‘win at any cost’ sports culture that mimics our larger society whether we want to admit that or not, the Olympics somehow float high above the grit despite the sponsorships, despite the doping, and despite the professionalization that’s foundationally changed the Olympics over the past few decades.

Underpinning it all is a wonderful set of tenets we could all do worse than to strive to achieve in our everyday lives:

Not to win but to take part.

Not the triumph but the struggle.

Not to have conquered but to have fought well.

So here are a few ideas I think merit recognition for their ‘going for gold’ if not ever achieving it.

Gold: Huffington Post
HuffPo may not have vanquished traditional News formats across media, but it certainly has made its presence known– and quickly. In just seven years it’s been bought, become one of the most visited News sites, and won a Pulitzer Prize. Not bad. What I like most about it is that it’s the proverbial box of chocolates. It’s got hard news and gossip, syndication/aggregation and original reporting, national and hyper-local news, liberal and conservative points of view. There’s something for everyone without being just completely vanilla, as in the USA Today. Rather than saying nothing, HuffPo says seemingly everything. Cool.

Runner-up: Facebook

Like The Dream Team, people love to hate. But, Facebook is bringing lots of the best parts of the web together under one blue roof. Acquisition of Instagram, integration of Spotify, and many other land grabs continue to make The Facebook the shiniest site on Earth for most folks.

Silver: MobileMe
What if all your stuff was synched and stored in the Cloud? Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Yes. It is. Before iCloud and other services made that de rigueur, there was MobileMe, Apple’s Hindenburg meets Pinto blemish. A great idea that just never worked, MobileMe was tantamount to asking all of your stuff to stop working. It effectively shut down all conversation between devices like a third martini over dinner with your in-laws. Undaunted, Big Mac came back strong and MobileMe is all but forgotten. I like that Apple makes computers but isn’t a computer itself. This was the ultimate feet of clay demonstration of that. Happens.

Runner-up: RIM/Blackberry

Seeing Blackberry’s struggles is like the opening sequence of The Agony of Defeat. I’m not even sure if that epic tumble was from the Olympics, but it was Ski Jumping, so close enough. Blackberry pioneered the multi-purpose mobile space, blazed the trail, was run over by an iTank, dusted itself off only to get speed bumped by a speeding ‘droidmobile’. They brought their 400m game to the Marathon with predictable results.

Bronze: Napster
In so many ways Napster was the ‘straw that stirs the drink’ for so much of what we have today. Before getting squashed like a bug, it egged the Music Industrial Complex, ushering in the likes of Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud and others who crossed the chasm from traditional to digital delivery on a bridge fashioned from the charred bones of Napster. P2P got rolling in earnest with Napster. “Don’t own it, share it” became the mantra for a whole generation, second only to “don’t buy it when you can burn it.” While its reach did exceed its grasp legally and ethically, Napster began the process of people looking to each other and not to corporations for answers, ideas, and of course, music. Rock on.

Runner-Up: Samsung

Apple and Samsung need to get a room already. These two remind me of the Harding-Kerrigan soap opera. Engaged in an Olympic-sized pissing contest over patents, Made-in-the-USA (by way of China) Apple stares down the “menace from the East” with global Gold in the balance. Sorry, that was the made-for-TV Olympic-hype version. But don’t sleep on Samsung. They could very definitely medal in the Handset 400. My money’s on Apple to nip them at the tape.

None of these products won it all and that’s precisely the point. They strived. They tried. They pushed themselves and their competition to the limit. Isn’t that what we all should aspire to do? Not competing against anyone but competing for someone. For ourselves, our ideals, our ideas. The Olympics are about Personal Best, not destroy everyone in your path.

Prediction Time
It wouldn’t be a Sporting event if we didn’t have wages on it.

Gold
All of us. That’s right. I think over the next fortnight or so we’re going to get a glimpse into how multiple technologies, multiple screens, can be used in a complementary way for regular folks, not just the Adderall-with-a-Mountain-Dew-chaser gamers. Use the web to learn more about events, contestants, venues…while also providing your own color commentary on your social web. With the apps out there and the anticipated coverage London will receive, it will be easier and more fun than ever.

Silver
Chicago. The City of Broad Shoulders wanted the Summer Olympics. When they see what an enormous cluster it is for Londoners, they’ll thank Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow they lost the bid. It’s not like they’re not used to losing.

Bronze
Innocence. I think the Olympic flame stirs something in even the most jaded hipster among us. What it stands for deep down at its core is pretty good stuff. While the McOlympification continues to dismay and disappoint, I think there’ll be enough genuine passion, genuine appreciation, and genuine sportsmanship and camaraderie to keep the flame aflicker.

Let your Games begin.


Goohoo!

As you’ve probably heard, Yahoo just hired ex-Googler Marissa Mayer as its new CEO. She is the company’s fifth CEO in five years. But can yet another CEO change the fate of the struggling company? It got me thinking.

I get sad when I see “paperboys” (themselves now in their forties) literally throwing a rolled up log of dead tree at “customers” before peeling off. Really? Dinosaurs no longer roam the earth. Equally, though, I cringe at the gilded turd sites and applications that so beautifully say nothing in their perfectly developed pointlessness.

These folks need one another. Here’s a case in point.

I had a great lunch with a good friend and super smart guy recently. He was mentioning that in his particular company “the cavalry is always coming.” Mind you, his is a phenomenal company and very venerable, but it’s always had a bit of envy hardwired in its DNA. They’ve always been one person away from MEGA success in their collective mind.

Finally, at a recent meeting someone finally stepped up and said what some of the newer management had been thinking. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We have everything and everyone we need right here.” Crickets. Crickets. One muted ‘harrumph.’ Then the meeting continued.

This is all too common in most organizations. Most of us envy and fantasize about what we don’t have because it’s easier than really focusing and digging in on making what we do have great. At the risk of going all Dr. Phil on you, I’m pretty sure this is why so many relationships fail. Marriages. Jobs. Friendships. Working at them is hard stuff. A clean sheet of paper is so much easier.

Except it isn’t.

Mr. Clean Doesn’t Always Get the Job Done

The Cleaning House solution very seldom works in my experience. It looks good. It’s accompanied by lots of optimistic, confident proclamations about a new lease on life, fresh takes, and infusions of vim and vigor. It’s got to be better than the tired limp-along that preceded it, right? Not usually. New people, however brilliant and talented (which by the way they all are on paper or in the abstract) rarely know very much about you and your particular situation. They require significant ramp-up time. They bring new flavor to the cultural stew — some of it good and some bitter. It generally takes them a long time to get productive. Some never do. Such is life.

Would you actually be going faster with the limp-alongs you had prior? Probably. They presumably knew your business and their roles within it or they wouldn’t have been there in the first place. If they were bad from the get-go, perhaps it’s you who should be packing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for turning the page on individuals or en masse depending on the situation. Some people are incorrigible and cancerous. Some just aren’t good enough or don’t do what you need done now. I would just never start there. To me, that speaks to ego more than anything else. “New Sheriff in Town” syndrome. Kicking ass and taking names… so much cliched babble from people who read too many books ghost-written for ex-coaches. If you’re looking to sports analogies look at Bill Parcells. He took over a NY Jets team that was 1-15 and with essentially the same personnel he turned it into a 9-7 team the very next season and a 12-4 team two years later.

The secret? There is no secret. He worked with what he had. He got people aligned around a goal. He put them in positions to succeed. He held them accountable.

Contrast that to so much cleaning house that happens in industry today. In retail Sears, JC Penny, and a host of venerable giants routinely clean house, yet their downward trajectory doesn’t change. In addition to Yahoo, AOL, MySpace, and other tech companies have turned over everything except a new leaf.

The key question is: is there enough talent? If there is but it’s unmotivated, uninvested (often literally), or has ‘personality quirks’ that make it thorny, it’s a management problem. The answer? Manage. Lead.

Old + New is Better than Old vs. New

As so many “old” media properties are joined with or taken over by “new” media companies this is playing out in exquisite detail. The New think the Old knows nothing about technology or how the media landscape works these days. Old media types snicker at these skinny jeans who only know content distribution and nothing of how to actually create it. Venus meets Mars– only it’s not chocolate meets peanut-butter but kerosene meets water.

The fact is that technology properly applied to rock-solid content creation makes magic. Push combines with Pull. Collective enjoyment and personal paths both flourish. Three companies that demonstrate this to perfection are Discovery Networks, NPR, and ESPN. They all have rich traditions, but all have (early) adopted technology without throwing the content baby out with the technical bath water. They’ve brought the brands along and the audiences with them.

So with all due respect, good luck Ms. Mayer. But perhaps Y! should think carefully before entirely jettisoning the old for the new. Take an honest inventory of what you have and what you need. You might have more than you think. Only time will tell.

This originally appeared in iMedia.


A Flat PBR

That’s short for “Princess Bride Reference.” As in:

Buttercup: Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.’s?

Westley: Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.

Cut to Westley being mauled by Ratzilla.

Funny stuff. In movies. But in business, particularly technology, acronyms are spreading like rats in a subway tunnel and becoming just as big a nuisance.

Take NFC. For the six of you who haven’t Googled it yet, it stands for near field communication, a proximity-based means of transferring data between two “aware devices.” A base application of the technology would be a “virtual wallet” which allows you to pay for things via mobile phone easily and securely. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. NFC has the potential to greatly enhance productivity (could we manufacture products in the U.S. again?), provide timely and accurate records transfer (no more amputating the wrong leg), and a host of other applications technically feasible if we’d only imagine them.

You’d think with potential like this we’d want the very best and brightest from all walks of life working on it, right? Not really. It’s still very much couched behind a byzantine wall of acronyms and jargon, accessed only by the secret password of the geekiest inner circles.

Why? My belief is that knowledge is power. If I know something that you don’t I lord that over you, consciously or unconsciously. It’s not surprising then that NFC is obligatory in every presentation within the Technology Marketing speaking circuit where all audience members are encouraged to pat the person on the left and right on the back for keeping the circle small. Conversely, if I don’t know something I might be tempted to use jargon you don’t know until you lose interest, become intimidated that you have no idea what I’m talking about, or just buy my bluff that anyone who talks like this must surely be a ninja at what they do.

Less cynical people think it’s the result of us (especially marketing folks) living in a 140-character world. Abrvtn bcmes rqrd. Possibly. I’m all about brevity. I firmly believe distilling complex things down to their essence is not just good communication, but good thinking. Filtering and Processing are twin towers of great minds.

But there’s shorthand and there’s inside baseball. I think this is the latter.

For instance, our company has a large operation in Montreal which I visit frequently. Of course, everyone is bilingual (at a minimum). I won’t go into the failings of our U.S. educational system as it pertains to language. I’m always so impressed by my colleagues seeking to communicate clearly based on their audience. If two people are speaking to each other it is nearly always in French. If I approach, they’ll invariably begin speaking in English whether they are talking about a project plan or last night’s Canadien’s game. Assuming it’s the same conversation continued so I can understand it, I think their fluency is remarkable, but even more so their manners.

That’s right. I said I admire greatly the manners of the French Canadians.

Contrast that with how we use language amongst ourselves here. Imagine you popped into a random meeting inside the company next door. (I’ve actually done this and the results were extraordinary. Farsi is easier to pick up than an hour-long conversation on Encryption.)

One thing I was struck by during the whole sub-prime debacle was how incredibly and obviously stupid it was once it was laid bare in plain English. Up until that point it was couched in jargon and rhetoric that when properly translated by experts said—“this is for us to know and you to (never) find out.”

This isn’t just in banking or government (the reigning BAD or “Best Acronym Deliverers”), it’s all of us. When jargon increases in our company, usually logic decreases. The beautiful elegance of a great product or concept is so wonderfully simple it’s easy to articulate. The inverse is true as well. I had a boss once who said if your corporate strategy couldn’t be written on the back of your business card it was too damn long. Today, most business cards would have to be the size of a Publisher’s Clearing House cardboard check to hold what could loosely be described as a strategy.

Check out this video from Google in which an engineer explains how Google uses social data in its rankings:

 

This is very complicated stuff presented by a very “inside” technical guy. And yet we understand every word. He breaks it down, makes it intelligible without in any way talking down to us.

If your simple questions are met with overly convoluted answers, hit pause—and for God’s sake don’t “just go with it”. “Believe me, it makes sense,” went out the window and down the toilet with so much written-off debt, the Pontiac Aztec, and several product briefs that have crossed my desk recently.

When you go back to your meeting rooms, listen to what your company’s working on with fresh ears. Better still, have a friend from outside the company (and preferably outside the industry) spend a day in your meetings. If he or she can’t make heads or tails of it even after asking for clarification, you may not be sitting on a bubble, but your business may not be ready to pop either. The skeleton key of gobbledygook has opened too many doors for too long. We’re on to it. There’s only so much hydro-, oxi, -ectate, and financial instruments we can be duped by.

Before the world calls BS on your alphabet stew, clean it up yourself. If your strategy won’t fit on the back of your business card, assuming you still have some of those lying around, it’s probably too damn long. And take a page from the French (Canadians), try speaking as if you actually want to be understood.

C’est si bonne.

This post originally appeared in iMedia.