(How) Words Make a Difference

January 10th, 2010   •   no comments   

Why must we wordsmith the best parts of our enterprises?

“Talent management” is a term that has been irritating me for…at least a year.  It’s time for me to say something.  And, say it loud and well: we’re wordsmithing the best parts of our enterprise.
Do you recall how the Bush Administration / Rove was so clever with words?  They took “global warming” and softened it to “climate change.”  When asked, directly, whether there were some errors with the oxymoronic “war planning,” he confessed that “mistakes were made.”  Notice, he didn’t say that “I made mistakes.”  No, that would be sobering, to accept responsibility. 
This post is not about polticis; I’m trying to point out how powerful our wordsmithing can be.  I’m referring to “word craftiness.”  (Is that a similar word to Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness?”)
Well, there’s something that’s been going on in the Corporate world analagous to all of the design folks choosing colors for the next few years (you didn’t think that the colors of chocolate and light turquoise just poppped up, did you?)
My beef is with deflection via wordsmithing; getting less close, less intimate, more institutional.  The wrong approach: this is a time when we need to be more genuine, more vulnerable. Look at the history: in the 60’s and 70’s, it was called the “Personnel Department.”  Then, in the 80’s, it became “Human Resources.”  As opposed to “Industrial Resources,” the other, non-human side of the enterprise. 
Now, it’s “Talent Management.”  Huh?  Like a “Talent Show” or “American Idol” with the grimacing Simon.  As if the guys in the upper or middle echelons really believe they’re “managing talent.”  (Let’s just agree to be real and cynical as opposed to buying into the idea that all these terrified people, regardless of rank, can’t find enough courage to care.)
I like what Max DePree at Herman Miller called it back in the 90’s: Vice President for the People.  People.  What a novel idea.
What is it about we humans that requires us to complicate so many simple things?  Is there a gene for it, a location in the pre-frontal cortex?

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