Wednesday, July 30, 2014

business today

The acquisition of WhatsApp has given Facebook two major advantages, believes Brian Taylor, Digital MD at Jaywing.

"It's removed a serious competitor threat," he explained. "Where Facebook owns 'capturing our moments', WhatsApp dominates one-on-one communication, particularly in emerging markets across Asia."

(Times of India article)

Something about that word "moments" reminds me of some other piece of business language that I read recently. Oh yes, that's it. It was the mission statement in British American Tobacco's investor piece.


(BAT: Our Vision and Strategy)

Our "moments", those things we think most private to us, are of course commoditized. But it's easy to forget that, and it's arresting to see the word used in these contexts.

Many too are the positive greenish sort of words that circulate in the business community: ecosystem, growth, reap, harvesting, crop, sustainable, environment. Their use is principally in the abstracted and self-justified world of managing business processes and profits. Company mission statements don't talk about making better flechette shells, they talk about innovation and agility in the defence sector.

As everyone knows, the word "crop" is also used of industrial chicken production. The numbers of individual birds are so huge, and their treatment so depersonalized, that they may be said to have no animal gleam in their eyes at all, but are just a sort of regular scurf of breast-meat grown in controlled allotments.

The word "harvesting" is commonly used of fossil oil.

Shell's primary business is the management of a vertically integrated oil company. The development of technical and commercial expertise in all stages of this vertical integration, from the initial search for oil (exploration) through its harvesting (production), transportation, refining and finally trading and marketing established the core competencies on which the company was founded.


In business today you can by all means harvest what you cannot grow!

You would say that the linguistic distortion fools nobody. But that would be naive. Deceptive language does not mind being found out by a few renegades; company wording is impervious to being called ridiculous or a liar. That does not matter, because the deceptive language nevertheless influences our responses at a subliminal level, even while we imagine we are aware that you cannot truly harvest oil.

And before long, people start to forget. "Harvesting" is already becoming established as the standard academic term. Here it is in the classroom:

Of course you could argue that what's really unsustainable isn't so much the extraction of oil as the combustion of oil. Those ice-cubes are looking very slender now.

But young people today still find Shell and BAT to be great places to work, passionate about their people and proud of what they do. Etc.


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