Mom and Apple Pie…

A few days ago Rory wrote a post entitled Ten Minutes of Sincerity – Enthusiasthma, in which he argues that there is such a thing as too much passion.

Which got me thinking about one of my pet peeves. What do following words all have in common:

  • Passion

  • Innovation

  • Synergy

  • Agility

They’re what I call “Mom and Apple Pie” words, for two reasons.

First, they all have a positive connotation. Who wouldn’t want to be more agile, more innovative? Who is going to argue against having a more synergistic approach? Shouldn’t everybody have passion?

Combine that with the fact that these words are used in a content-free environment, and you get a nice-sounding platitude that means nothing, but makes it sound like you are for changing things.

You don’t think we should have more apple pie? What’s wrong with you? Why do you hate your mother?

People who want to make an organization more agile don’t say, “We’re going to improve agility”. They say, “we’re going to get rid of <x>, we’re going to change <y>, we’re going to release every <x> months”.

People who want to improve synergy say, “Our users are trying to do <x>, and it’s way too hard. What do I need to do to help you fix this?”

With those sorts of people, you can have rational discussions about the benefits and disadvantages of changes.

But don’t talk to me about being more agile or innovative without specifics.

BTW, I’m all for Mom, but I prefer Apple-blueberry, because I like the extra tartness…

Comments (8)

  1. Wife PhC says:

    Your post is right on target.  Anyone who has ever sat through a faculty meeting can attest to the fact that speaking in platitudes is more dominant than actually talk about real organizational changing ideas.  I have on occasion at these meetings pointed out the BS only to be told later that I need to learn to be more ‘tactful’.  Tactfullness is a waste of time if no real problems and solutions are spoken about in real terms.

  2. Tim says:


    A few more:  proactive, strategic and the dreaded "new paradigm".

    All of these terms have the effect of losing any sense of original thought from those who utter them.

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