Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Speak no evil

Andre Spicer's recent book Business Bullshit - published by my former employers - is a deep dive (sorry, Andre) into the world of meaningless management-speak and empty buzzwords, and his article on the subject for the Guardian serves as a concise appetiser. In it, he traces the historical evolution of such language in conjunction with the rise of the corporate manager and the various management trends that have taken hold. As his chronology reveals, modern-day management-speak has its roots in the hippie language of self-realisation and spiritual growth, which has been perverted for corporate and political ends.

Searching for the reason why business bullshit has taken over, Spicer mentions two of the most "familiar and credible explanations": that it allows its users to radiate an air of expertise and that it enables them to be deliberately vague. However, he goes further and connects the phenomenon to David Graeber's observations about "bullshit jobs", claiming that - contrary to the opinions of even those who do them - such jobs are indeed productive, if only of more bullshit. Both bureaucracy and the continual pressure for change (whether necessary or not) are to blame, Spicer concludes - both preventing people from doing their actual work.

There is a bitter irony in the fact that the never-ending pursuit, development and implementation of efficiencies actually causes the whole system to be chronically inefficient. Spicer argues that, far from being something simply to scoff at, business bullshit is in fact worryingly symptomatic of this problem and thus should be dissected, challenged and binned at every opportunity.

(Thanks to Terry for the link.)

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