You haven’t growth-hacked your value proposition? Even your silos are siloed? Has all your human capital gotten trapped in the data mines? It’s not too late! Just iterate, rinse, repeat!

When Joe Keynote begins his pep talk, it’s hard to call B.S. if he’s stringing together the techspeak well enough. That’s because, in the digital world, we increasingly traffic in abstractions built upon abstractions, clouds of clouds. We’re often so busy playing catch-up with all the catchphrases that, it’s hard to hear some words as they are–like a Russian nesting doll that opens into a smaller doll that opens into an even smaller doll, until the smallest doll opens into nothing. At tekMountain, we’re guilty of it from time to time. Even today’s tech giants are guilty of it. Buzzwords, at their best, let us communicate complex ideas within rapidly-evolving markets without signing everyone up for a seminar. At their worst, they give us a tool to exaggerate what we actually understand.

So every now and then, each of us needs a hard reset, a chance to step back and parse what is meaningful from what is mimicry. And there’s no better medicine than a little Philosophy 101. After all, in an industry redefining the parameters of consciousness, why not turn to the oldest school of self-reflection? So, in the spirit of true ingenuity, let us, as comedian Bill Hicks used to say, “squeegee your third eye” (and our own) with a list of philosophical quotes that will challenge how you daily communicate in the tech world.

1) Ideology is strong exactly because it is no longer experienced as ideology . . . we feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom.

@Slavoj Žižek

Tech translation: A dictionary of tech lingo might be infinite, but it’s easy to trap ourselves inside a set of language that only accommodates one line of thinking. Whatever your space, there, of course, has to be some sort of baseline of mutually-understood concepts and strategies, otherwise nothing would get done. But what industry entities are shaping that set of language? What self-interests are driving the conversation, and do those interests align with you your company’s goals?

2) Culture is not your friend. It’s an impediment to understanding what’s going on. That’s why the words “cult” and “culture” have a direct relationship to each other. Culture is an extremely repressive cult that leads to all kinds of humiliation and degradation, and automatic, unquestioned, and unthinking behaviour.

@Terence McKenna

Tech translation: Even innovation comes loaded with orthodoxy. At a business conference full of the brightest minds, we remain faithful to all the usual rituals: lecture, workshop, lunch, Q&A, panel discussions, dinner, product exhibition, awkward drunken dancing in the hotel ballroom. Our ideas may be revolutionary, but our modes of discussing them need to complement their content and scope.

3) Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality.

@Hannah Arendt

Tech translation: In lectures and discussion, all too often a buzzword is used to avoid more comprehensive treatment of a complex concept. Ask a roomful of tech heads what interoperability means for health care, and you’ll get a different response every time, but with significant overlap. This means many things. One, each respondent answered as if there’s a universal meaning to the word. Two, the response overlap suggests there’s some unspoken agreement to the meaning of the word. Three, nobody in the room answered that the word doesn’t mean anything, or is, at least, unimportant. To use a tech buzzword is to subscribe to the system of thought that gave rise to it. How often have you considered what solutions exist in contradiction to this buzzword?

4) Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.

@Martin Heidegger

Tech translation: This goes beyond the buzzword epidemic. From intra-office emails to press releases to conference calls to tag lines to in-app menus, we are always toying with meaning-making, and never completely on the mark. It may very well be a few inexact phrases in your product pitch that bungle a great opportunity. Because of the ease with which we can say much with very little, or very little with much, we must avoid laziness and apathy at all costs. The acuteness of our ideas requires the most vigilant language.

5) The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes.

@Michel Foucault

Tech translation: There’s always consequence in questioning the existing order, especially when money is involved. Companies who have already pursued a singular path of innovation don’t want to surrender their efforts. One paradigm shift always replaces another, but the outmoded paradigm never goes quietly. In the misinformation age, anybody can be denounced as a fraud, and social media will eat him alive. This often happens, not solely because the accuser believes his own accusation, but also because the accused has the audacity to challenge the accuser’s comfort in the status quo. Even tech, despite its break-neck evolution, operates in constant conflict with its own status quo. Have you noticed you’re reading a listicle?

[Edgy Call-To-Action]

Here’s the part where we tell you why tekMountain is so bad-ass, and that you should connect with us. That’s mostly because Hubspot or Neil Patel told us to. And we are bad-ass. We also wouldn’t want to strand you at the end of an article without a clearly-defined next step, right? Otherwise, we might as well just give you another Top 10 Buzzwords for 2017 article. What could be more pretentious than that? Oh, wait. Whoops.


 This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesBill DiNome, and with lead writer Zach Cioffi

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