Stephen Elop, the new CEO of Nokia, used a business cliché recently to describe the situation at the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer. In a memo to employees, he compared it to a man standing on a “burning platform”. For years I’ve been fascinated by the sort of clichés that dominate corporate speak, especially in meetings. What’s your favourite?
I always end my corporate writing workshops by asking participants to divide themselves into two teams and write as many meeting-clichés as possible on separate flip charts. People usually get tired towards the end of an intensive day of learning and this exercise provides comic relief. The winning team is awarded chocolate bars.
Here are some of the recurring examples I’ve come across in workshops:
• Best-in-class product
• Blue sky thinking
• Get our ducks in a row
• Join the dots
• Joined-up policy
• Low-hanging fruit
• Manage expectations
• On the same page
• Thinking out of the box
• This is not rocket science
Funnily enough, I always find that workshop participants in the United States are virtual gold mines of information when it comes to naming clichés they’ve encountered in company meetings. People I train in Europe have often struggled to provide examples for the flip chart. Could it be that business clichés stem mainly from the U.S. corporate culture?
As for Mr Elop, a Canadian, let’s hope he’s got more innovative ways to resolve the challenges Nokia faces in a competitive market than trotting out a cliché. His leaked memo was published by FT.com on February 9 and it reads well on the whole. But as most of us know the problem with clichés is that they are so overused that they lose their punch.
How about your experience in this field? Can you add to my list? No chocolate award I’m afraid, but plenty of food for thought.
I welcome your comments.