Wednesday 25 April 2018

Is social media killing corporate waffle?

I’m only a few chapters in to Don Watson’s new book Bendable Learnings. And I’m having a few bendable learnings of my own. I’m cringing a lot: even reading some parts looking through my hands like a scary movie. It’s a captivating and sometimes shocking read for one who’s spent years in corporate affairs.

The book is a condemnation of management-speak which Don protests ‘has triumphed’ like weeds in a garden and has (according to the dust jacket) made much of our everyday language dull, dimwitted and meaningless.

But I’m not so sure it’s a complete triumph.

I don’t think we’re set to see a front page pic of the Management-Speak flag raised in final victory – like Iwo Jima or the Reichstag – over our language.

Still, I’m relishing Don’s many well-deserved jibes at mission statements, values, going forward, synergy, strategy (no Don .. sob .. really?): it’s a real broadside at “noxious management drivel and financial-market blather.”  And it’s not just corporations he targets: government and eduction and other sectors get a spray too.

Timely advice Don – no doubt. But a reason why it’s not a complete triumph is because of social media.

Why? Because social media and increasing web 2.0-based communities are challenging the communications hegemony (hmm now I’m worried about big words) of the co-joined major institutions of government, corporations, media and advertising.

I’m not suggesting conspiracy. Simply an ongoing spiral of big influential organisations getting bigger; more powerful; and more controlling of language. Who could possibly stand in the way of such a combined linguistic force?

Social media in all its forms – but mainly blogs – is, I believe, re-establishing common, accessible, plain, everyday language into common everyday, mainstream use. Where, just a decade or so before, the high walls of big media/corporate/government were essentially a language lock out: now we see social media finding the cracks. And also going around the walls to create new and direct conversations between like-minded people.

Don suggests that those who oppose the force of management speak will be a minority like something out of Fahrenheit 451. A secret society who will continue “to speak and write in whole sentences, use concrete words and phrases, recite poems on their bicycles..”: that the authentic language of face-to-face will become ‘boutique’.

I am not so gloomy: I don’t see an inevitable triumph. Because for every tortured, management-speak article or speech that continues to emerge there are now millions of well-read blog posts appearing using plain, everyday, conversational, accessible and authentic language.

Social media spreading social language. Spread the word. Parky


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