The point of stupid buzzwords

Giff Constable innovation

Process fads roll through and it is easy to roll your eyes. They come with business books with one good chapter and 9 chapters of filler. But they can serve a purpose.

I have found over the years that it is incredibly easy for human beings to get lost in the weeds, blinding themselves in the process. New packaging provides a way for people to break out of their own ruts, and sometimes gives different groups a common language.

Sometimes you learn something new. Often times, however, you get reminded of things you have forgotten, or you prioritize ideas that you have been ignoring but which suddenly seem important.

For me personally, over the last 4-5 years, I’ve responded well to certain ideas. Marc Andreessen on product-market-fit. Steve Blank on customer development and the search for a repeatable business model. Sean Ellis on optimizing your funnel before scaling. Eric Ries on experiment-driven “lean startup”. Design thinking and “service design” coming out of the UX community. XP (extreme programming) development practices from the agile community.

Equally, there have been ideas out there that don’t grab me. They might be useful for other people, but they don’t click with my brain. Examples include high-ceremony Scrum, Cynefin, Effectuation, and tools like the Business Model Canvas and personas.

None of the above frameworks is the answer and none is an end point.

But while the entrepreneur side of my personality can too quickly dismiss things as bullshit, I’ve also come to accept these waves because at least they make you think for a few seconds outside of your current comfort zone.

Great work is a result of raw talent, hard work, and, yes, a good process. Some people over-obsess about process, but effective work is always about finding the right balance.

I’m always looking to vector in on a problem from multiple directions and perspectives, and that includes process. This means chewing on lots of different ideas, mashing them up, and keeping what works.

I think this is happening in the lean startup community right now. More people are embracing it, and there is still plenty of misunderstanding to clear up, but is the movement innovating? Among early adopters, I see folks trying to push the boundaries with other schools of thought, and this is a good thing.

“Lean startup” won’t go away, just like Extreme Programming has not gone away, because there are good fundamental principals in there, but it will evolve and the name might fade. Buzzwords don’t matter. Doing good work does.