Posted by: brandextenders | September 25, 2012

Business Clichés are a Dime a Dozen

I was recently re-reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, the computer science professor who was diagnosed with cancer and was allowed to give one last lecture on life as he saw it. One topic mentioned was business clichés and how despite their seeming overuse, they are so often right on the money.

The dictionary defines a cliché as a trite or overused expression or idea and yet these word-gems last because they resonate with a kernel of truth. On the Andy Griffith Show, Barney Fife used to say you have to nip it in the bud meaning to stop something before it gets out of hand. A deer in headlights refers to someone who is stunned or dazed momentarily while a leopard doesn’t change his spots notes how people can’t really change who they are. All of those clichés ring true on many levels thus their repeated use in conversations.

Business clichés can at times be annoying, especially when someone uses the same ones over and over again. Is the glass half empty or half full? If you build a better mousetrap will they really come? Do you want to touch base, drill down, think outside the box or pick the low hanging fruit? Some are seemingly contradictory like these three: money is the root of all evil, money makes the world go round and money doesn’t grow on trees. Well, which is it?

There are some clichés though related to business I do like and that get the point across in a succinct manner.

  • Putting lipstick on a pig:Swine have long been a source of clichés (pig
    business cliches

    Pigs are still pigs, even with lipstick

    headed and pig out among others) and I love the visual this term brings to mind. The meaning being you can’t change something from ugly to pretty or from useless to useful. Often used when referring to poor sales numbers or work projects that are doomed to failure.

  • Unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes: Billionaire Ted Turner used this cliché a lot in regards to business decisions. Think of a team of huskies pulling a sled and the view that all, but the lead dog has and you’ll understand the meaning. Leaders lead and followers follow and those in front can set the direction for the rest of the pack to follow.
  • Paradigm shift: This is defined as a radical change in our underlying beliefs, a metamorphosis, and a transformation in the way we look at things. Paradigm shifts usually happen as a result of new information and can be an instrument of change. People like Copernicus, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs all changed the world radically with their paradigm shifts.
  • Blue ocean strategies: A book by this name was released n 2005 and tackled the challenges companies face in head-to-head competition creating “bloody, red oceans.”  Blue ocean strategies, or BOS, guides companies to find uncontested market space where the competition is irrelevant. Often these “value innovations” involve paradigm shifts that help companies differentiate themselves within their chosen space.
  • One man’s treasure is another person’s trash: In the world of promotional products, and many other industries, this idiom is so true. Despite whether you like or dislike something, your customer might see it in a completely different light. There have been many times I’ve shown something to a customer and they hate it, but another customer buys 1,000 of them. Lesson learned: sell the customer what they like, not what I like.

There may be many business clichés you know that are appropriate to your business and I’d suggest you not be afraid to use them. I’ve realized young people may not know many of the overused phrases I do and find them useful in remembering certain concepts.

While you may be the chief cook and bottle washer and see the glass as half full, don’t shoot yourself in the foot or bang your head against a brick wall. The last thing you want is for someone to think you’re a few fries short of a happy meal, not the sharpest blade in the bunch or the brightest bulb in the pack. Clichés can be fun, just don’t overuse them or they might become your Achilles heel.

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