Nathan Sykes

March 12, 2021

Kill The Buzzwords, Clarity Is King

I was procrastinating yesterday and I found something cool - it's called the 'Corporate Bullshit Generator'. You hit the button, and fun phrases like these are appropriately dispensed for your viewing pleasure:

  • distinctively evolve backward-compatible content
  • competently impact impactful innovation
  • dynamically foster standards compliant platforms
  • holistically promote cloud-centric products

Does anyone else want to punch something?

As I was sending my newly generated corporate bullshit catchphrases to various members of our team for fun, I decided that that's what I wanted to write about today - the importance of clarity in writing and conversation.

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Many, many companies say that they want to communicate better or be more productive. Who doesn't? I have good news for you - there's a simple hack that you can implement immediately. Ditch the corporate bullshit, and focus on providing clarity instead of obfuscating your intentions, goals, or needs.

I'm not the first one to write about this.

I first learned about the importance of clarity from Y Combinator, a famous incubator in Silicon Valley who process thousands of submissions per year, only to select a few dozen that they'd like to write a check for $125,000 for. In every case, says their general partner Dalton Caldwell, the applicant is communicating their idea very simply and clearly, free from buzzwords and masking information.

Quote from Dalton Caldwell: And it's because I understand there's no jargon, and everything just adds up, and it's a great narrative. And it's, like, "Wow, what a great application." And you move on, it's very quick.

Weak applications obfuscate. They obfuscate everything. "What is your idea?" obfuscated. "Who is on the team, who's writing the code?" obfuscated. "How does it work?" I have no idea.

As I've taken on more of the 'partner' role in my own work at Howdy Interactive, I can't tell you how true what Dalton is saying it. The companies that we review fall into two categories - the founders are either authentically passionate and great, or they're obfuscating information behind buzzwords and jargon.

According to Dalton's talk, he likens the jargon to well-intentioned founders who are just bad at writing, making him put together pieces of the puzzle on his own. I'm more cynical than that - I think that using buzzwords and jargon is an intentional attempt to mislead someone. A founder isn't proud of their stats, so they use all sorts of nonsense to cover it up.

My question is - why? It's not like the stats are now forever-hidden. They're going to come up during due diligence. So why hide them now?

Just be truthful, and communicate with clarity. If it's not a fit for Y Combinator, it's not a fit for Y Combinator. If it's not a fit for private equity, it's not a fit for private equity.