The most annoying business buzzwords

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To achieve career success, you'll have to be your own brand evangelist, and that means a paradigm shift in the way you leverage your intellectual capital. Knowing the right language can be a real value-add... sorry, I can't keep it up.

But it's remarkable how many people can. Business buzzwords are everywhere - and there's a blithe disregard of what many of them actually mean, says professor Davide Sola. After interviewing British executives for Financial Times Publishing, he found that fewer than 10% actually understood the terms they used.

Fewer than half understood the meaning of 'paradigm shift', for example, or knew the difference between 'strategy' and 'tactics'. Some thought they were using the terms correctly; others admitted to faking it in the hope that nobody would ask them to explain what they meant.

Some buzzwords are actually pretty cool - to start with, anyway. The first person to refer to 'rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic' or 'herding cats' had a pretty arresting image, but it's not quite so great when you've heard it 100 times.

And others simply make you want to weep. Here are a few of the most annoying - if nothing else, they might give you some ideas for your next game of Buzzword Bingo...

Action (as a verb)
'Do'. There's no word on earth that will make typing up the latest sales figures sound like a job for James Bond.

A magic talisman kept somewhere inside a computer that makes its pronouncements infallible.

Used to mean energy or mental capacity, generally by people who lack the energy or mental capacity to think of a better word.

Best of breed
Your product is a dog.

Big data
All that stuff that used to sit uselessly in a filing cabinet, and now sits uselessly on a bunch of computers somewhere in the US.

Blue-sky thinking
Not rocket science.

Brand evangelist
Like a salesman, only in a turtleneck and jeans.

Change management
Firing people. See also downsizing and right-sizing.

Caving in and giving away all your secrets to rivals.

Core competency
The only thing we're not rubbish at.

Beg for money (the venture capitalists aren't interested and the bank manager just laughed).

Beg for ideas (nobody within the company has an ounce of creativity, but maybe the customers do).

Unreliable and untrusted. Not to be confused with bleeding edge, which means unreliable, untrusted and dangerous.

Digital natives
People younger than us.

Everybody that knows anything about it thinks this idea's rubbish. See also game changer, innovative, visionary and ground-breaking.

Goal oriented
Not a team player.

Granular view
The opposite of the helicopter view.

Someone that knows a little bit about something, but has no actual qualifications or experience worth listing. They compete with thought leaders, champions and wizards for mindshare.

Lean in
Coined by Sheryl Sandberg, now chief operating officer of Facebook, to encourage women to get more involved at a high level in their workplace. Generally used to browbeat middle managers into working like dogs.

Let's get on the same page
Shut up and do as you're told. See also singing from the same songsheet.

Like etiquette, only ruder.

Badgering complete strangers; alternatively, getting drunk with your old university friends.

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LinkedIn Study Finds Most Overused Professional Buzzwords in the UK

Parachute in
What you do to people when you want them to hit the ground running.

Change your mind. Never, ever to be confused with performing a U-turn or admitting defeat.

Pushing the envelope
Pushing paper.

Proof of concept
A diagram I drew on the back of an envelope.

Quantum leap
A very, very small change. Generally used to mean a very, very large change.

Reach out
Send spam emails and unsolicited phone calls.

Smell test
What you give things that can't be run up a flagpole.

A hobby that gives you something to talk about in Shoreditch bars.

Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks
It does - because it's c**p.

Tactics are short-term. But if you want to use the word when talking about a five-year plan, go ahead.

Think outside the box
Come up with something more original than phrases like 'think outside the box'.

Or leverage. Much more impressive than simply 'using' something, especially if you can spell it with a 'z' and look all American.

Have we missed your buzzword bugbear? Let us know in the comments section below

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