Thursday, February 25, 2010

#147: Good Golly Miss Molly

I love buzzwords, really I do. I’m utterly useless at them and as such I’m constantly in awe around people who can throw them out like they’re so much old socks. Hearing people talking about ballpark figures and refocused realignments just makes me shudder. At the end of the day a team player can impress me by thinking outside the box with a value added information-based vision statement. Excuse me while I now go all a-quiver. It’s like a new form of language, one that is only enhanced by a knowledge base that goes the extra mile. I know I’m out of the loop with buzz words, but still, once you peel back the onion and change your mindset, the added value of buzzwords is apparent.

I know that there are entire cottage industries devoted to the usage of buzzwords, and the paradox of it all is that flexible movers and shakers often see the big picture more than us simpletons. And good for them. Because often the people who use the most buzzwords are the most useless individuals on the face of the planet.

I’ve had the misfortune to work with practitioners and experts of buzzwords more than once over my career. Do they add value? By Cracky they do! They often provide some of the best amusement that you’ll ever have, and let’s face it, who amongst us hasn’t played Bullshit Bingo at least once in a strategic meeting? We all have, except for those who are standing in front of the room with a PowerPoint demonstration behind them sprouting more crap than a septic tank invaded by an army after a night on the beer and curry. Nothing rattles a Buzzworder* more than someone either giggling and poking their pals or actually yelling “BINGO!!” to a chorus of laughter during a meeting. The best practice for the Bullshit Bingo is to be customer driven – you, the customer, are entitled to the best service the service provider can offer, so why shouldn’t you yell? Why not indeed.

One of the best Buzzworders I ever worked with was hilarious. Let's call him Buzzworder. Buzzworder was as useless as white dog shit on a footpath and only half as attractive, they could fire off a dozen buzzwords a minute and were an endless source of jocularity in all meetings in which they attended. Even better the Buzzworder was completely oblivious to the source of any growing mirth and would merely stand there and grin like a man who has been released from a vow of celibacy and has just found a cheap hooker. Buzzworder would later tell me that people laughing during his presentations were a sign of respect, and also a sign that his own particular sense of humour was coming through and permeating the crowd. Buzzworder never fully understood that he *was* the joke, but then the joke was also on Buzzworder.

Not that it ever had any adverse affect upon him. Buzzworder had managed to successfully negotiate his path through an interview with the end result being employment in a field that he knew nothing about. Buzzworder had won the position over people who actually knew what the job was, how it was done and, more importantly, had actual experience and contacts within the chosen field. The position involved a large degree of cultural awareness, the fact that the he had absolutely zero understanding of the particular culture in question didn’t away him in the slightest. “I can easily fix that issue,” said Buzzworder to me when I expressed my amazement at his own self-confessed ignorance, “I can grab a few DVDs and there’s a documentary on the Cat People on SBS in a few weeks. The rest I can make up. I mean, how hard could it possibly be?” I didn’t dare tell him that the Cat People were amongst the most complex on the face of the planet, but then if I had it would have also have been casually dismissed.

Buzzworder’s greatest moment of sheer ignorance for me came when he shadowed me in an interview. The customer presenting was one of those repeat offenders who’s many issues around substance abuse had seen them evicted from almost every boarding house and flat group in the state. I couldn’t do much except give the lecture about the need for the customer, Mr Switchy, to keep up his current services with the Prince Aragorn Society. Switchy was insistent that he didn’t need to as he was, “…fuckin’ clean man, I don’t do that drug shit no more.” At this I rolled my eyes but Buzzworder leaned forward and grasped Switchy’s hands in his own. I was a bit taken aback as I made it a policy never to touch any such customer after seeing insects leap off one set of arms and hearing about the flesh eating diseases that another carried. Open weeping sores and dirt generally scare me off. But Buzzworder grabbed Switchy’s hands, moved forward and started deeply into his eyes. “Instead of making this a new year, why not make it your year instead!” I could almost hear underline in the word ‘your’. Seriously. Switchy couldn’t care less, het got what he wanted and quickly left.

I turned to Buzzworder and said, “What the hell was that about?” “Simple,” said Buzzworder, “the man obviously needs a break. I think he was telling the truth.” “How do you know when a drug addict is lying?” I asked. Buzzworder looked vacant. “Their mouths move. I’ve been dealing with Switchy for the past three years. He’s been a full blown drug addict for the past fifteen. He gets evicted because when he’s not stealing from people he’s beating them up. He’s been in and out of jail for ten years. It’s taken me 18 months to get him on a methadone programme and even then it took a court order.” “He might have changed,” suggested Buzzword. “Did you notice the bag he was carrying his belongings in? Do you know where he got that from?” The bag was a clear plastic one with all of his ‘stuff’ inserted into it, and his name written on the front on a tag. “No,” was the reply. “He’s got that because he’s just been released from the cells. The new year will be the same as the old one for him, hopping from one place to another, a few weeks inside and hopefully he’ll sort himself.”

“But,” said Buzzword, “perhaps my pep talk will give him the impetus to empower his life and be proactive in moving to the next level.” “Buzzword,” I simply said, shaking my head, “if you said all of that to him you might as well say in Cantonese, because he still ain’t gonna understand it.” I could never understand how someone who claimed to be so intelligent could be so stupid, but, at the end of the day, the joke was on all of us. Buzzword sat in his chair for four solid months doing nothing but applying for higher positions and practicing his vocabulary. Eventually someone bought the ticket he was selling and he left, for a far higher role, grinning all the way out the door. Every now and then I cross paths with him and run the other way, lest I get sucked into the World Of A Human Bullshit Thesaurus.

*Not sure if this is an actual word, if it is, great, if not, even better.

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