12 Buzzwords to (pleeease) Abandon in 2011

We’ve all heard them – the sparkling diamonds of elusiveness that differentiate the real “gurus” from your garden variety business folk. Buzzwords: the heinous little clichés haunting conference rooms, social media networks, and conversations everywhere – all too often used as a replacement for actual substance. In celebration of the New Year, here’s a list we’ve compiled of buzzwords we’d like to see buzz off in 2011.


  1. Outside the Box
    This expression was created for those not willing to boast their “uninspired techniques and minimal brainstorming abilities”, as well as those not comfortable with a project executed with mediocre talent. Have you been searching for an overused phrase that will tell the web designer to be a little more innovative – and as ineffectively as possible?  “Outside the Box” is the directive for you, general enough to carry no expectations what-so-ever, yet demanding enough to be perplexing.
  2. Actionable
    Originally a legal term meaning “cause for legal action,” actionable has been molded into a concept meaning anything you can take action on.  In other words, it is a filler word that can apply to most anything. Want to make something sound smart and strategic? Add actionable! Want to make something actionable?  Just add a verb!
    Not Actionable: There is some ice cream.
    Actionable: Go eat some ice cream!
  3. Guru
    The term Guru was brought to us by Sanskrit, originally characterizing a spiritual leader or teacher. Here in the Western World it has broadened to mean an expert, advisor, or mentor, typically in business, but not necessarily in a position to share knowledge with others. Lately it has been thrown around so loosely by both experts (self-proclaimed or otherwise) and their followers that it has actually achieved a reverse meaning, a negative connotation. If you want a programmer with experience, ask for an experienced programmer – if you want someone who might not have tangible experience, but believes they know everything they need to know, ask for a programming guru.
  4. Mission Critical
    Oh how clever to relate the significance of a business task to the critical nature of a military operation! Do you need to express the importance of an assignment, but are unsure of how to say “succeed or die”? This stale piece of supervisory bread is for you.
  5. Circle Back
    A phrase used to mean “discuss later”, circle back is often thrown around by people to disguise the fact that they have no input or solution for the topic or issue at hand.  “Let me circle back with Wayne on those actionables.” Has the utter embarrassment of “let me get back to you on that” overwhelmed us to this end?
  6. Join the Conversation
    A cliché that was probably perfect alongside the birth of social media, the concept of “joining the conversation” has become so diluted that it really means nothing anymore. Who should we be conversing with, why, and when? Should we just be speaking to anyone that will listen or is there a certain audience we should focus in on?
  7. Synergy
    Celebrating over forty years of client astonishment, this shimmering yet ambiguous word meaning “teamwork” must be laid to rest.  What started as an empowering word symbolizing the strength of working as a cohesive unit has been watered down to the point of meaningless blah blah blah.
  8. Transparency
    Another word that has lost its true definition to the social media marketing culture, transparency should be a term that holds a lot of importance for a lot of people. Being open, honest, and clear in your intentions are essential values for a business to have and to carry on into their interactions with the public. Through overuse, however, the word has lost its true definition and become a social media cult word to be avoided.
  9. Bleeding Edge
    Ah yes, the technology so hot that it trumps plain ol’ cutting edge. Thrown around with the subtext of being the newest and best – even ahead of cutting edge – bleeding edge basically means too new and uncertain to trust to those in the know.
  10. Engage
    A word used by many “social media gurus” to signify absolutely everything that matters while simultaneously meaning nothing at all. Simply put, engaging is connecting and interacting with others, answering questions, or even just telling friends how your morning is going. Engaging is what social is all about – yet the people that need it don’t know what it means and the people that preach it don’t apply it. Go ahead, just ‘x’ it out of the word bank.
  11. Incentivize
    Incentivize, you shiny, complex word, you. You sound awkward and flawed, yet you just won’t admit that you’re nothing more than “motivate” or “encourage”? You flaunt around flailing your arms about, hoping to become respected, but it’s just not going to happen.
  12. Low Hanging Fruit
    A term that embodies inexperience and lack of ambition, “low hanging fruit” is the nice way of describing something as easily attainable. The idea behind low hanging fruit is not terrible, but rather flawed as a strategy. What do you say we leave this cliché in the past with all of our other under-ripened concepts?

Which buzzwords would you like to see hit the road indefinitely in 2011?