Death by PowerPoint and Other Communications Disasters

Ever left a meeting wondering what the heck everyone was talking about?

While a quick wit and a smart turn-of-phrase can get you noticed, the practice does little to advance the cause of effective communication. Worse, the vast majority of our traditional business vocabulary is not generally understood.

My first experience as a post-graduate was an orientation session with 100 fellow learners. The facilitator started the session with an unusual proposition — anyone able to define the term ‘leadership’ and successfully defend their choice, could skip the entire program, save years of work and nearly $100K in expense and receive his or her Doctorate that day!

Three hours later, more confused then when we’d started, nobody was ready to attempt the challenge. The facilitator used the opportunity to introduce our first assigned textbook – all 12 pounds and 1,296 pages of The Bass Handbook of Leadership, which discussed many of the 55,000+ known definitions of leadership!

We use terms like leadership everyday… but what are we really communicating when our meanings are unclear?

Last week, I conducted an interview with a former Fortune 500 CEO and I asked him a direct question, “What does Innovation mean to you?”

He told me it was hard to define (I liked him already) but in his experience, Innovation is about “getting people to think differently”. Now, that’s a definition I can live with… I understand it and I can identify it when I see it…

Anyway, it’s time to get back in the presentation, I think they are on slide 642 by now, but at least I’ll know what they mean when they talk about Innovation

READER CHALLENGE: Can any of you help define Strategy, Tactic, Objective, Goal, Team, Collaboration…or any of the other words we use every day but few really understand?