BEWARE THE FUZZ: the REAL problem with buzz(words)
Kierra Leimert - Marketing and Research Coordinator
When you think “buzzwords” what comes to mind? Bill Lumbergh standing over your desk reciting a bunch of long-winded jargon to motivate you about your stapler protocol?
Woah… sorry about that.
Truth is, buzzwords have taken on some seriously negative connotations and I’m concerned about it
Do a simple Google search of “buzzwords” and you’ll be inundated with articles on buzzwords to avoid, buzzwords that qualify as more than just buzzwords; words like “annoying”, “irritating”, “overused”... And you know what? They’re not wrong but it’s not the buzzword’s fault.
The origin of buzzwords: "buzz"
Buzz is a contagious reaction of excitement, engagement and sharing around a particular object, event or idea. I love buzz. Buzz is how we transmit ideas; ideas bounce off of ideas and lead to new discoveries, technologies, techniques, and causes. Buzz is how we grow.
Information travels at an alarming rate in the digital world leading to a major accumulation of buzz in our popular culture, our social communities, our industries… We don’t want to miss out on all the excitement and we can’t all be experts of all things so we summarize all this incredible information in a way that’s easy to (a) remember (b) repeat (c) discuss with others. Hence the “buzzword” – or the summarized essence of the buzz.
Divergence from buzz: "fuzz"
But do buzzwords maintain the essence of the buzz? Absolutely not. Due to all the excitement that buzz brings, these words become contagious, they become misused, overused, diluted with ideas and concepts that have nothing to do with what made it buzz in the first place.
This - my friends - is no longer buzz. It’s the diluted, mutated clone of buzz - fuzz - the blurring of an object, event or idea until it loses its original meaning.
It’s tragic. As buzz turns to fuzz, our conversations slowly drift off, we start to lose interest, and what warranted the buzz in the first place is lost in the fray.
Everyday we’re blocking opportunities for innovation and meaningful dialogue with fuzz.
How do we protect our buzz?
We can blame buzzwords and call them names all we want but at the end of the day the problem is us. We’re degrading buzzwords into fuzzwords.
We will always cling to some form of buzz. That’s just part of being human. I don’t see it changing anytime soon and I don’t want it to. However - if we care about the buzz in our industry - there are a few things we can do to maintain its integrity, eliminate fuzz and stimulate growth instead.
1 – Fuzz is “ewe” - stop absorbing & relaying information like sheep
It’s only natural to want to participate and be involved in buzz but when we do so with our eyes and ears closed we’re not contributing anything meaningful to the conversation and we're actually habituating others to the buzz. This process of blindly regurgitating buzz quickly reduces the novelty and excitement of that "buzz" and puts it at risk of fading into fuzzland, robbing you and those around you of a chance to engage with and optimize on the buzz.
2 – “Bee” present and inquisitive - pay attention & ask why
Nothing kills creativity and progress like a closed mind. Buzz is buzz for a reason. When buzz comes your way take a moment to consider what makes it buzz in the first place. Open your eyes, ears and mouth and you'll be able to participate with buzz in a much more meaningful and productive way. Don't just jump on board with buzz - create dialogue. The more we ask why, the more we discuss (and disagree), the more we learn, and the more we grow.
3 – Don't herd sheep - let buzz lead dialogue not your agenda
We all have an agenda and a right to our own opinions, beliefs and expressions but when we let our agenda go before the buzz itself we’re writing our own ending and closing the door to opportunities that lay outside the pages - cheating both ourselves and others of the true ending. Approach buzz openly, let it progress naturally through dialogue and the intermingling of varying perspectives. It's much more likely then that there won't be an ending at all but it will continue on into more buzzworthy discoveries and creations.
4 – Don't be a Bill Lumbergh - stop using fuzzwords
Every time we use a buzzword without understanding its meaning we drift farther from the buzz. Great rule of thumb - unless you have your own understanding of a word's meaning and you're prepared to discuss it, don't use it! You don't want to be a Bill Lumbergh. He never knows what he's saying! Don't fall into the fuzzworthy trap of misunderstand, misuse and misinform. This only dilutes the buzz and accelerates fuzz and confusion for everyone else. Research, facilitate meaningful dialogue and discourse and draw your own conclusions.