Choosing the Right Business Language Can Bring About Change

In this piece appearing in Strategy-Business.com, Eric J. Mcnulty asks us to pay close attention to the words we use in business. He believes that “Words will shape the future of your company, your industry, and our society.”

He goes on to say that we should refrain from using words which have abstract meanings as they can be interpreted differently by different people. Furthermore, he lists three words which should be banished from the business lexicon, let’s take a look at them.


In business terms, we define humans as units of economic activity. This prevents businesses from truly understanding the individuals who purchase or use their offerings, and their reasons for doing so. Therefore, we must use the word ‘people’ in place of ‘consumers’ – this will help us understand them in a more ‘human’ sense. That aside, we must discern how a company’s offering creates meaning in the lives of people. The word ‘consumer’ limits this path of discovery in a way that ‘people’ doesn’t.


The word ‘empower’ echoes sentiment from the command-and-control industrial age where power was centralized and doled out to the ‘worthy’ through roles and designations. If the ‘worthy’ do not fulfill the necessary criterion, this power will be withdrawn by the powers that be – ‘empower’ is thus condescending.

Now, all that has changed since companies prize innovation and agility very highly. As such, even though executives can hire and fire as they seem fit, employees can choose to devote as much or as little as possible to their work. Moreover, they can even choose to leave the organization and use their energies to establish a start-up which can be a competitor to the organization. Mcnulty, therefore tables the words ‘untether’ and ‘inspire’ in an effort to replace ‘empower’, as these words imply that organizations carry the burden of removing the obstacles for employees to succeed.


‘Alignment’ is used to describe a top-down, linear arrangement of distinct components with fixed relationships within organizations, but it is quite unachievable – at least not for long. ‘Harmony’ is more achievable, and a better pursuit in the words Michael Hayden, ‘harmony’ captures “the balance between freedom of action for the parts and unity of effort for the whole.”

Click on the following link to view the original article: https://www.strategy-business.com/blog/How-the-Right-Business-Language-Can-Catalyze-Change

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