Another bit of business jargon: “drive”

201602-unsplash-driveI’ve written about the word “synergies”, which is one of the classic words in the business jargon lexicon. Today I’ll cover a less iconic piece of jargon: “drive”:

  • You drive accountability on your team.
  • You drive results through ongoing initiatives.
  • You drive efficiency across your supply chain.

Drive is an action verb. It’s powerful. It’s a quick way for you to be the centerpiece of the story.

You’re at less risk for misusing “drive” than, say, “synergies”. Drive connects pretty obvious subjects to objects. Synergies speaks to relationships that may or may not exist. If you use synergies to describe fictitious, or absent, relationships, you’ll look foolish. You won’t run into the same problems with drive.

Here’s one awkward example of drive that I saw recently. On my commute home from work, I saw a billboard for the University of Houston┬áthat said, “We drive research to protect the Gulf.”

That seems forced to me. Something like “Our world-class research protects the Gulf” or “Our researchers protect the Gulf”┬ásounds more natural to me. I realize opinions will differ on this kind of stuff.

Here’s a more natural use of “drive” from a senior executive. The CEO of Qlik said it on CNBC while I was drafting this post. He was talking about how people are responding to the explosion of available data:

People want to drive more insights out of that data.

If you want good examples of business jargon, watch CNBC. It’s a perfect platform for business jargon, since talking heads are trying to impress investors, customers, employees, and the general viewer, all at the same time. The wider the audience, and the greater incentive to appear like an expert…the more jargon you’ll hear.

Jargon is like any other tool in your toolbox: if used sparingly, in the right context, it’s hugely valuable. It helps you sound polished and mature. There are some environments where we avoiding jargon completely will make you sound out of the loop.

At the same time, jargon is super vulnerable to overuse. It’s a crutch. People like to use it to cover ignorance or lack of confidence.

I recommend erring on the side of underuse. You might sound a little raw, when a common business word is available and you don’t use it. But at least you won’t sound like you’re trying too hard, or worse, that you’re trying to fool someone.

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