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OPINION4 June 2010

Think first, then speak

A non-exhaustive list of words and phrases that we are tired of hearing in the MR industry.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of words and phrases that we are tired of hearing in the MR industry.

Actionable insight
The granddaddy of MR puff. This phrase is particularly amusing because ‘actionable’ has two definitions: something that can be acted upon, or something that you can be sued for. But our main problem with ‘actionable insight’ is that we hear it so often that we’ve begun to assume it doesn’t really mean anything.

Co-creation
We’ve got nothing against co-creation, but we wish people would make up their minds what it is. When Kathryn Korostoff of Research Rockstar asked on Twitter a few weeks back what people understood by the term, she received a whole bunch of different definitions. ‘Co-creation’ is being used to describe pretty much any decision that involves more than one person. Let’s not dilute the meaning by throwing it around without thinking.

Cloud computing
Next time you mention ‘the cloud’, please consider whether or not you just mean ‘the internet’, and if not, how you would define the difference. Thank you in advance.

Web 2.0
This one, we’re glad to say, has pretty much died a death. Which is good because for a while it seemed anyone could call anything ‘web 2.0’ just because it wouldn’t run on Internet Explorer 5 or below. More precise phrases such as ‘social media’ and ‘the social web’ come in for their fair share of abuse too, but they are an improvement.

Incremental change
People often talk about this as if it’s a bad thing. If I scored 3,850 on Space Invaders yesterday and I score 4,100 today, that’s good, right? It’s all very well to gush about going beyond incremental change, but don’t say it unless you mean it. Incremental change is good, and transformative change is rare.

Intuitive
Largely thanks to Steve Jobs, the word ‘intuitive’ seems to have become a synonym for ‘good’. Don’t forget that lots of things that are intuitive aren’t true. The notion that the world is flat, for example (certainly looks flat from where I’m standing) or the belief, common among babies, that if you can’t see something it’s not there anymore. Don’t say intuitive unless you mean it, and even if you mean it, don’t expect anyone to be automatically impressed.

Real time
Do you mean ‘fast’? If so the word you’re looking for is ‘fast’.

Holistic
Quite apart from its unfortunate associations with quack medicine, ‘holistic’ is a much abused term. Before you say it, think about what the alternative would be. To ignore some stuff and hope for the best? Taking all aspects into account is really the bare minimum buyers should expect from research.

Silos
‘Silo’ is an odd metaphor for inefficient organisation in a business. On a farm, silos are useful – storing your wheat and barley in separate containers seems very sensible. And although the word refers to a very real business problem, it has long since lost all meaning through overuse. If you want people to listen and think about what you’re saying, find a new way to say it.

The faster horse
Henry Ford supposedly said that if he’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said “a faster horse”. It’s the classic quote that people use to rubbish MR, when what they’re really rubbishing is a caricature of bad MR. Kantar’s Tom Ewing counters the Ford quote with: “If I asked Henry Ford to interpret customer data, he would have been completely bloody useless at it.”

Horses for courses
The second horse-related phrase that we’re tired of. It’s so dull and obvious that your audience may nod off in the space of those five syllables.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Again, boring and obvious. This one persists in the MR industry despite enviably low levels of infant disappearance at bathtime.

Please add your pet hates below.

16 Comments

9 years ago

Every time someone talks about "engaging", a kitten dies. The kitten population has been decimated - I play as much a part as anyone in this, and I am sorry. I have slight issues with "listening" to conversations taking place using the written word, but that's a minor quibble...

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9 years ago

Oh, let me add "leverage" to this list!

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9 years ago

Active Listening (shouldn't you be anyway???) "trains on time" Dashboard

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9 years ago

Story telling. Am I the only person who thinks this phrase evokes an air of mendacity? When I was a child if someone was "good at telling stories" it meant they were an accomplished liar. Now no one delivers results they "tell the story".

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9 years ago

'Pro-active', my pet hate, use of this word demonstrates a lack of originality combined with a woeful understanding of the english language. How much more active than 'active' is 'pro-active'?

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9 years ago

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater! We all should leverage Web 2.0 co-creation in the cloud for real-time actionable insights that span silos for holistic change, not incremental change. When it comes to horses for courses, back the faster horse!

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9 years ago

All very true, but your whole point is diminished by your continual use of acronym. What does MR stand for anway? http://www.acronymfinder.com/MR.html

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9 years ago

I'm starting to have a serious problem with the word 'brand', to the point of wondering if we would be better off without it. Especially when combined with 'brand architecture', 'brand nurture' etc. Problem is, it's a hard one to substitute. And 'Brand owner' is a contradiction because brands only exist in the mind of the consumer . . .

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9 years ago

Whoa! When did Research sign up the reactionary language police? Perhaps you will try to turn the tides back next? The people get the language they deserve, it is not a static thing, it changes and develops. I have issues with most of your list, but the biggest is you misuse of real time. Real does not and I am fairly sure never has meant fast. Real time is a more general equivalent of what TV calls live. IF you watch a real time cctv recording of a snail moving over a pane of glass, it is slow, but it is real time. In market research real time refers to systems that either provide a live stream, or are capable of providing one. For example real time data from an online survey is that data which has been collected up to the moment the request is sent. Fast data is very rarely a problem. Real time data can be a problem because it has a tendency to lead to people jumping to conclusions and it tends to increase costs, because people are watching a process they can't readily manipulate, i.e. wasting time.

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9 years ago

Stakeholders. Opinion Leaders. Tipping Points. Interestingly. Gaaaaarrrrghhh!!! But seriously Robert, you've ruined everything. Sometimes at 11:00pm with a report deadline looming it is just easier to slip into the lingua franca of our customers. They perk up when you use the phrase "actionable insight" just as they slump when you use words that are too new, too precise, too exacting. My all time favourite was a research report I read in the 90s, assessing different forms of organisational communication. The study found that "real time verbal feedback" was the most effective. Just magic.

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