Don’t trust anyone who says ‘synergy and leverage’

There are any number of truly awful examples of ‘management speak’ driving people crazy in business these days, but there are two that I find particularly egregious. They are of course, synergy and leverage.

Synergy is a medical term that describes “the combined effect of drugs, organs, etc that exceeds the sum of their individual effects” (Oxford Dictionary). In terms most of us recognise, this is a Vodka and Red Bull. People in business like to use it in claims that their product or service spontaneously creates ‘value-add’ simply by throwing it into the pot with everything else you’re already doing.

Leverage, in the way most people understand it, means the mechanical force gained by using a lever (instead of trying to move something with your bare hands). Again, in business, especially finance, this usually means borrowing money to increase the possible return on investment (and risk) of a particular thing you’re doing.

Used together, usually with a split infinitive and several other hideous pieces of jargon, it’s possible to create gloriously awful expressions such as “to synergistically leverage our competitive advantage and achieve measurable bottom-line value-adds.”

A colleague of mine has even found a company called Synergy and Leverage that claims to specialise in “systemic organizational transcendence”, which apparently means “the translation of quantum principles into the organizational operations of application and execution”.

To my simple mind that translates as “doing stuff a bit better”, but then, I like to keep things simple. It’s not really that complicated people!

Seriously, who takes this sort of language seriously? In the 1960s young people apparently used to say “don’t trust anyone over 30”. Nowadays it’s more of a case of “don’t trust anyone who says ‘synergy and leverage’.”

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