on October 25, 2005
Which of the following proposals do you prefer?
"The historical trends have led me to conclude that by doubling or even tripling our efforts of efficiency on the domestic front, it will yield a new entity of massive synergistic proportions. I therefore wish to present to you this exhibit (a composite of metallic and mineral elements) acquired from licensed retail channels as a symbol of our new alliance. Your acceptance of this strategy would launch a series of initiatives culminating in an event that would be in compliance with local and national authorities and internationally recognized by virtually all foreign governments. Your prompt feedback in this matter is in the best interests of all stakeholders."
"Will you marry me?"
If you think the above example is absurd, think again because it's exactly how lots of business people write their emails, PowerPoints, and reports. It's also how graduate students write their research papers. It's also how lawyers write their legal briefs.
Ironically, I think the very people this book could help are the same people that don't recognize they have a problem.
For those people that already write in a plain concise style, this book is a very entertaining review of business writing nonsense. Sadly, genuine people thinking hard about real solutions to problems are outnumbered by pretenders just blowing smoke.
on May 18, 2005
How many times have you read a phrase in a book, financial report, consultant's report, or technical journal that, when you finished, you asked, "What did that just say?" If this esoteric jargon drives you nuts, and makes you wonder why the author uses these terms/phrases, then WHY BUSINESS PEOPLE SPEAK LIKE IDIOTS: A BULLFIGHTERS GUIDE is a book to read. IDIOTS calls to task the disingenuous garbage many corporate types call "reporting." Many just wanting to get by will drink the koolaid and allow these items to pass without exception.
Fugere, Hardaway, Warshawsky are three consultants, "addicts" if you will, who have decided to get off the jargon-riddled bandwagon. They detail how generic corporate atmospheres have mutated business from one of communication and meaning to one of faux intellectual elitism. Those deriding this seemingly overwhelming problem have found that speaking to the masses is much easier when one tries NOT to speak Greek.
The three authors, in an effort to spread the word virally, have created a software program called, appropriately, Bullfighter. The purpose of the program is to scour MS Word and PowerPoint documents to rid them of "jargon-mania."
Every profession creates its own jargon so insiders can discuss their livelihoods in a form of esoteric shorthand. However, jargon becomes a problem when it is used to lord over others or make them feel inferior, Warshawsky said.
The authors have studied the reception to their concept by setting up shop in an ever-busy Starbucks to take a simple survey. They showed patrons one of two actual company writing samples: one was jargon-less, while the other was the typical junk-filled jargon-based smoke and mirrors. The authors asked the patrons to assign adjectives to each communiqué. The jargon-laden sample consistently earned words like "rude and obnoxious" while the clearly written one was called "energetic" and "friendly." 'Nuff said.
In sum, this book cuts directly to the chase of the confusing, mind-numbing rhetoric, and offers an alternative. As one who reads legal and financial documents for a living, this book fits the bill, and none too soon. If you read these types of documents in your work or are just tired of the insanity of double-speak, pick this book up and read it.
on April 18, 2007
I wanted to like this book, but:
It's a very simplistic idea - Speak like a human not a jargon-addled automaton and people will like you and understand you better. Basically, if you read the first chapter, you've read the book.
I had hoped that there would be some actual research or references to research that supports a lot of the opinions the authors put forward. I was disappointed. Their own research sounds really thin and designed to prove a foregone conclusion rather than really shed light on the subject. And there was little in terms of linking to meaningful, objective research.
The examples they gave of what they consider good communication versus idiotic business-speak weren't very clear, fair or convincing.
I also felt like the tone of the writing and the read were pretty vindictive and self-righteous rather than helpful. I actually started to feel sorry for the "idiots" they are ripping on.
Conclusion: "truthy" ramblings galore, but no real news here.
on October 25, 2005
It's happened to all of us. We read something, then read it again and think, "I don't get it. What was that about?" When this happens, take comfort knowing that it's not you. It's the author.
Most of us have caught on to corporations' bull. My favorite: When they say "synergy" at a merger announcement, we know they mean "layoffs." Why say, "utilize" when "use" does the job nicely? But not all of us come with built-in bull radar and we don't know all the bull words. The book teaches more than killing jargon.
The Bullfighter's Guide looks at four traps that stop our messages from getting across clearly. Meet our first guest: Obscurity Trap. It's the empty calories of communication. Meaningless and wasteful. At least, when we get such calories from sweets, we enjoy it. Not with the obscure talk. To beat the guest at his game, use plain language.
Next up is the Anonymity Trap. Companies love to assimilate their people. Get them all to talk the same. Produce the same results. Leave the personality out. While templates make jobs easier, they also lead people into this trap. Add a jolt of personality and you won't have trouble dodging this one.
The Hard-Sell Trap sounds like its name. The mascot for this one is the "stereotypical car salesman." Customers have gotten smarter and when they sniff out a hard-sell, they run. The last guest is Tedium Trap. Reports and presentations that spout out numbers in droves put people to sleep or cause their eyeballs to roll. Fight the bull through storytelling, conversation, personality, and recreation.
Throughout the book, the authors cover these four traps and give examples of how to duck them. Hey, they even do makeovers on presentations by replacing cheesy art with pictures that have impact and bring out a chuckle. Also included is a listing of movie titles with great quotes and themes that fit most business presentations. Oh, no, the authors don't encourage you to present the whole movie -- just a clip -- enough for effect.
If only high schools and colleges would adopt this book and its approach. Writing for school has become too structured; it's no wonder we struggle with creativity. When can we see a sequel with more examples? We need a lot of help breaking years of bad writing habits with great laughs along the way. It's not often a book comes along that's a pleasure to read while it teaches.
on November 15, 2005
Picking up this fine little book at home was exactly like being back at my office, optimizing adjacencies with the resources who share my Herman Miller Contemporary Dynamic Office Solutions Individual Modular Action Station -- because everyone at and above a certain level, in the office where I toil, SPEAKS EXACTLY AS PORTRAYED IN THIS BOOK. This is real, people -- synergizing your bottom-line best practices to leverage a value-added, results-driven mindset for your core competencies. And here's the true kicker: You can show this book to one of the imbeciles who actually employs such rhetorical baloney as a matter of routine, and he/she will think it is some sort of management textbook... seriously!!
If you are one of those who already has bought into the vision of total-immersion corporate B.S., then you are a lost cause and there's no need for you read this book because you're far too clueless. But for the rest of us -- for us normal people -- this is an absolutely hilarious read.
on February 25, 2007
I only got halfway through this disk. It made its point early on and kept going on and on about it. It tried too hard to convince and had too little on solutions. I know some people proactively seek synergies and other stuff like that. I was hoping for a more practical applicable solution.
on June 9, 2005
This book is worth every dime of three times its price. Funny, engaging, and above all, true! I haven't enjoyed a business book so much in a year (and I devour them.)
By all means, buy this book - especially if you're in charge of ANY corporate communications or sales messages. I can't wait to read another by Brian Fugere.
on November 8, 2006
A friend of mine bought this for me last Christmas. I thought it was an odd topic, and was slightly offended. Getting a book called "Why Business People Speak Like Idiots" is a lot like getting a diet book. It's both a gift and a diagnosis.
Anyway, it was a quick read and a lot of fun. Ever since I finished, I've been more careful with my jargon, shunning empty terms like "mission critical" and "synergize." I've given the book to several co-workers. Some because I thought they'd appreciate the content, others because they truly are business idiots.
If you find yourself in an airport bookstore, this is a pretty great way to kill a few hours.
on September 6, 2005
This was an AWESOME book...and yes I just said awesome...Who cares that is how I feel and honest. It is about time some of the leaders of corporate America read this...I laughed out loud at some of the lines because they are so real and what I hear every day...and the powerpoint issue is so accuate.
I think anyone in business who has to open their mouth to speak or send emails should read this...it is Brilliant!
You know you've got too many books lying around (or your office area is too messy) when you stumble across a book in an unexpected area and think "where did *this* come from?" I have to admit that's what happened with Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky. I'm guessing it got put down somewhere, was covered up by something else, and it took awhile for me to move that stack again. But, having "re-"discovered the book, I've found a real gem. Excellent for everyone who is fed up with people using big words with no content.
Part 1 - The Obscurity Trap: The Fog of Business; The Smartest People Use the Dumbest Words; Size Matters, But Not How You Think; It Depends on What the Meaning of "Is" Is
Part 2 - The Anonymity Trap: You've Been Templatized; The Power of Imperfection; Being Funny Is Serious Business; Pick Up the Damn Phone
Part 3 - The Hard-Sell Trap: The Non-Sell Sell; Kick the Happy-Messenger Habit; Flop Penance
Part 4 - The Tedium Trap: Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll for Business People; Make Your Point by Making Theirs; An Actuary's Guide to Storytelling; The Substance of Style
Monday; Resources - A Bull Spotter's Guide
You've all heard (or done) it... Someone is making a presentation or is talking to others in their organization. In order to be thought intelligent, they resort to using big words and business catch-phrases that make them sound like an expert. But in reality, there's little substance behind the talk, and their audience is bored stiff. Bullfighter's Guide goes to the heart of communication and calls "BS!" to those who are wasting our time by inflating their own ego. Rather than put away the "real you" when you step into your office, try instead to use your own voice and style to get your message out. It's surprising how much more effective you can be.
The four Traps covered here pretty much cover the perils and pitfalls of business communication. The Obscurity Trap happens when the speaker exchanges their voice for jargon, wordiness, and evasiveness. They try to sound important by using words and phrases that aren't generally understood or have been stripped of any real meaning by overuse. Take that paradigm and bury it, please! The Anonymity Trap is where you try and fit in to the mold that's expected in the business world, thereby covering up any personality you might inject into your messages. These are the people who live and die by the template so that all communication is "standard". The Hard-Sell Trap means death to your efforts to get someone to buy your product. People like to buy things, but they don't want to be sold by someone who is only interested in their money. Instead, tell them the facts and listen to them explain what their needs are. And finally, there's the Tedium Trap.... boring, boring, boring. Don't make your audience sit through an hour of slides and slogans. Instead, tell them stories that make your point. Be different. Do the unexpected, and the audience will stay awake, wondering what you'll do next.
Bullfighter's Guide is not a large book, and it practices what they preach... get to the core of the message, and make it happen with your "own" voice. If you've ever tried to get a message across to someone (that should be about 99.999% of you), make sure you don't fall into any of these traps. Well worth reading, and I'm glad I found it... although I *still* don't know where I got it from...