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Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide Hardcover – March 2, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Dull, verbose, evasive language that disguises empty-headed clichés with jargon-drenched hype is pilloried in this diverting indictment of everyday business-speak. The authors are consultants, and their familiarity with the subject, enhanced through their side job peddling "Bullfighter" anti-jargon software, gives their irreverent critique a funny, knowing edge. Besides ridiculing some ripe samples of corporate pseudo-communication, they offer advice on the art of "persuasion" in every genre, from the humble e-mail to the shareholders' address, and throw in tips on public speaking, dress and deportment. Much of their advice-keep things concrete and specific, talk about what your audience is interested in-is fine, but some suggestions, like spicing up corporate presentations with ethnic humor, sexual innuendo and mild profanity, are certain to backfire. The authors also open themselves to their own critique. They throw around buzzwords like "authenticity," vapid clichés like "being you is all you'll ever need" and meaningless hype like "one-quarter of the gross domestic product is linked to persuasion." One of their recommendations for making presentations "spontaneous" and "personal" is to download anecdotes from an anecdote Web site. An injunction to brevity is translated into a mindless bean-counting formula proscribing sentences longer than 21 words (a figure derived from the "Flesch Reading Ease Scale"). And while they complain that "technology...makes it too convenient to automate the one part of business that should never be outsourced: our voice," their signature remedy for turgid, jargon-riddled prose is to run it through their anti-jargon computer program. The authors deliver a scintillating diagnosis of the problems in business communications, but sometimes their cure for the disease is the disease. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Let's face it. Business today is drowning in bullshit," say the authors of this timely, highly entertaining guide to cutting through corporatespeak and communicating effectively. Fugere and his coauthors, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky, are all veterans of the consulting giant Deloitte, and they speak with a jaded insider's view of "hype-filled, self-aggrandizing product literature" and "elephantine" reports that "shed less than two watts of light on the big issues." The concise chapters focus on common communication traps of business executives, including the tendency to write obscure, colorless, template information rather than clear material that speaks directly to its audience. Throughout, excerpts of egregious corporatespeak offer amusing, cautionary examples, and an appended glossary includes more offending phrases, along with deliciously sardonic definitions. Best of all, the authors suggest plenty of practical ways to break the bad habits. In an era in which phrases such as "going-forward value proposition" are supposed to mean something, this is a crucial guide, filled with "value-added deliverables" for readers in all professions who yearn for basic, substantive communication. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
English teachers with assault rifles. That's a movie scenario I could get behind!
Communication is a common buzzword in any business environment, but it means different things to different people. When a group of employees complains that communication from above is lacking, what they usually mean is that information isn't available in an easily accessible form. A typical report or batch of powerpoint slides full of meaningless, intentionally obscure, PC jargon doesn't solve that problem and can in fact be insulting to the more intelligent portion of the audience. Here the authors break corporate communication weaknesses down into four "traps": obscurity, anonymity, hard-sell and tedium. They suggest four ways to overcome these traps: storytelling, conversation, personality, and recreation. Some of the examples are eye-opening, such as a side by side comparison of an Enron memo and a Google memo, or a presentation given one week before the Columbia disaster which in hindsight might have saved the lives of the crew if anyone listening had been able to pull critically relevant safety information out of a messy, boring, repetitive slide.
It's no coincidence that the authors have a software program which will skim through your verbiage and pull out cliches or jargon for you, but they don't waste a lot of space in the book trying to sell it to you, for which I am grateful. My college genetics professor taught from his own textbook and I hated that feeling of a biased approach.
If you already have solid writing/speaking skills, the book is still a reasonable way to pass a rainy afternoon and might spark some ideas for your next presentation. Although I do believe that strong communicators are born, not made. You either have the innate talent for creativity and clarity, or you don't, and mediocre speakers or people who are lousy at getting their point across probably aren't going to get much out of this book or any other. Where I think this would have the most benefit is for young folks new to the business world who are not yet fallen into the trap of corporatespeak, or for good communicators too long exposed to the "dark side" who are struggling with finding ways to get out of the "four traps" and stand out from the crowd of faceless, dark-suited, templated drones. If the only way to get people to come to your meetings is by offering food, maybe this book is a worthy investment, but you're going to have to have at least the basic creativity skills needed to apply what you learn.
This is exactly what it feels like after reading this book. You won't be used any of the cool, meaningless terms or expressions after that. Plus you'll get a good laugh or at least a smile each time hear or read a presentation from one of these expensive consultants.
On the bright side it'll help you sharpen your communication skills by removing all the extraneous terms and expressions that are just meaningless.
A quick and insightful read, that should mandatory in the C-suite. This would make stupid corporate mission statement and empty corporate strategy presentations a thing of the past.
The book is a quick read in plain english that I have gifted to two important people--my brother (a journalist) and my best friend (who is currently writing a book on leadership).
To be quite honest, I usually dislike leadership books and I believe they are an excuse to make money without doing a lot of work, but Fugere et. al. has done their work and written an excellent piece of non fiction. (includes glossary of bull) And you CAN get the Bullfigher software described in the book, it can be downloaded free at [...] which is also the book's official website.
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