The 21 Most Annoying Tech Buzzwords, and What to Say Instead

May 15, 2019

By The Grow Wire Editorial Staff

Tech culture is known for its plethora of buzzwords(opens in new tab) that folks from outside the industry-- and even from within -- can’t stand to hear(opens in new tab). The use of jargon is arguably worse in tech than other industries because “innovation” is constantly “disrupting” the “ecosystem,” making for a revolving door of terms with murky meanings, or none at all thanks to their overuse.

Buzzwords can serve as convenient shorthand for complex ideas. But it’s often not long before these terms become worn, causing an automatic headache for your audience while leaving them with little clue as to what you actually meant to say.

Here are not only the most annoying tech buzzwords but also what to say instead so that your idea is transmitted clearly and your audience’s ears remain unburned.

(Editor’s note: Our original headline read “Growth Hacking the Buzzword Unicorns, and How to Pivot.”) 


1. Pivot

As in, “Let’s pivot from strategy A to strategy B.”

What to say instead: “Let’s stop using strategy A and start using strategy B.”

What you really mean: "Let’s try something different."

2. 360-degree view

As in, “We’ll use this data to get a 360-degree view of our customer.”

What to say instead: “We’ll use this data to learn about our customer’s habits, connections and interests.”

What you really mean: "We want to know exactly who our customer is."


3. Disrupt

As in, “Our startup will disrupt the lightbulb industry.”

What to say instead: “We’re going to manufacture and sell lightbulbs in a way no company has done before.” 

What you really mean: "Let’s pivot. Just kidding. Let’s do something brand new."

Your company may be a game-changer, and that's great. Just please don't say you're "disruptive."


4. Actionable insights

As in, “We derived actionable insights from this customer survey.”

What to say instead: “From this customer survey, we learned specific ways in which we could alter our strategy.”

What you really mean: "This data told us how to change our approach."


5. Sync up

As in, “Let’s sync up on the campaigns we’re running.”

What to say instead: “I want to know how I can benefit from your campaign and vice versa. Let’s call each other to talk about it.”

What you really mean: "Let’s discuss."


6. Holistic approach

As in, “We take a holistic approach to product development.”

What to say instead: “We consider all the ways that development efforts play off of and affect each other, even the ones that may appear less significant.”

What you really mean: "We look at the big picture."


7. Leverage

As in, “We’re going to leverage our workforce in San Francisco.”

What to say instead: “We’re going to outsource some tasks to our team in San Francisco.”

What you really mean: "San Francisco will handle it."

Please don't leverage the word "leverage" in your conversations.

8. “Open the kimono”

As in, “On our next earnings call, we will open the kimono on viewer demographics.”

What to say instead: “On our next earnings call, we’ll tell you what’s going on behind-the-scenes regarding viewer demographics.”

What you really mean: "We’ll give you the real story."


9. Circle back

As in, “I’ll circle back with you on this project proposal.”

What to say instead: “We’ve got some time until this proposal is due, so I’ll email you about it again in two weeks.”

What you really mean: "Let’s discuss again."

10. Deep dive

As in, “This webinar will take a deep dive into cryptocurrency.”

What to say instead: “This webinar’s host will talk about aspects of cryptocurrency that you won’t read about in a short article.”

What you really mean: "We’re going to explain cryptocurrency."


11. Visibility

As in, “I’m adding Bob to this thread for visibility.”

What to say instead: “Bob might be interested in reading our discussion. I’ve added him to this thread.”

What you really mean: "Bob should see this, too."

Involving your team is essential. But for crying out loud, avoid calling it "visibility."

12. Core competency

As in, “Our company’s core competency is employee training.”

What to say instead: “Our company’s most obvious strength is employee training.”

What you really mean: "We’re good at employee training."

*By the way: It’s competence, not competency.

13. Buy-in

As in, “Let’s get buy-in from the execs before we move forward.”

What to say instead: “Let’s have a phone call with the execs to get their approval before we move forward.”

What you really mean: "We need approvals."

14. Growth hacking

As in, “He’s expert in growth hacking for social media.”

What to say instead: “He’s expert in trying many of social media strategies quickly and figuring out which work.”

What you really mean: "We’re going to try things until something works."

15. Silos

As in, “We’ve got teams working in silos across departments.”

What to say instead: “We’ve got teams working on projects without meeting up to talk about how they could be helping each other.”

What you really mean: "Everyone thinks they’re the boss."

16. Hustle

As in, “Hustle is the secret to my entrepreneurial success.”

What to say instead: “Setting up meetings with investors and saying no to hangouts with friends is the secret to my entrepreneurial success.”

What you really mean: "I have no life."

17. Digital transformation

As in, “The lightbulb industry is ripe for digital transformation.”

What to say instead: “The lightbulb industry could hurt the environment less if we used energy conservation technology in this area for the first time.”

What you really mean: "There’s this thing . . . called technology . . ."

Yeah, you're here to "digitally transform things." We get it. 

18. Agile 

As in, “Our business needs to get more agile.”

What to say instead: “Our business needs to get better at changing software architecture on a dime once we realize the current setup isn’t helping users.”

What you really mean: "We need to change more quickly."

19. Bandwidth

As in, “I don’t have the bandwidth to help with that project.”

What to say instead: “I don’t have the time or energy to help with that project.”

What you really mean: "I’m too busy for that."

20. Innovation

As in, “Our lightbulb company is driving innovation.”

What to say instead: “Our lightbulb company is changing the way lightbulbs are manufactured, down to the smallest filament.”

What you really mean: "We’re just another lightbulb company."

21. Unicorn

As in, “My venture capital firm invests only in unicorns.”

What to say instead: “My venture capital firm invests only in tech startups valued at $1 billion or more.”

What you really mean: "I’m just like every other VC."

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