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2012 Forecast for Corporate Buzzwords and Phrases

by Matt Davis  |  March 8, 2012  |  11 Comments

Sure, you’re cool… but are you corporate cool?  Had a more than flat reaction when busting out a “synergy” recently?  Been blown away by a coworkers slick use of “ideate” in Friday’s big meeting?  How do you keep track of the latest buzzwords and know when to retire others? Don’t fret, I’m here to help.

As an analyst, it’s my job to find patterns that indicate trends.  This same core competency has a lot of synergy in finding patterns in corporate buzzwords and phrase-ology.  What we’re really talking about here is a new normal, where it’s important to balance use of words that are on the way out with the hot new verbal trends in the corporate jargon toolbox.  As an action item, I took some of my thoughts on these trends offline to ideate on how I can assist with making you the coolest person in the boardroom.  At the end of the day, I landed on what I think are some great tips that you can leverage to create chaos across the hippest of work communities.  Take what I’ve said below, see what sticks and certainly ping me if you want to tie out on any black swans that I may have missed…

Buzzwords follow a similar curve that we see in a lot of product lifecycles.  As I created my forecast for the hottest 2012 buzzwords, I plotted the contenders based on their popularity and acceptance in the workplace (see Figure 1).

To aid in taking advantage of the 2012 forecast, I provide the translation of these terms by their respective place in the lifecycle…


  • “ideate”:  sure, let’s talk…  but can we make it sound simultaneously scientific and zany
  • “2020”:  finally, a plan for the future that we don’t have to change next year
  • “…certainly…”:  new, but spreading like wildfire.  inject anywhere in a sentence to let others know you’re both open and sincere
  • “chaos”:  hip new term prevalent in the consultant and analyst space… read as “variable.”


  • “new normal”: took off after the recession as a way to say, “seriously, it’s not getting any better.”
  • “what we’re really talking about here is..”:  a handy way of saying, let me try to fix what someone else has said
  • “balance”:  oddly, you can’t do the same thing the same way and expect a different result
  • “black swan”: no, I haven’t read the book, but it sounds so much cooler than just saying “risky.”
  • “at the end of the day…”: a nicer way of saying, “We’ve talked about this far too long.” (even if you’re the only person who has been talking)
  • “take it offline”:  let’s never speak of this again
  • “leverage”:  plagiarize and steal are such nasty words
  • “see what sticks”: there’s no time for critical thinking or filtering. can you handle that part?
  • “tie out”: i’ll be giving you some more work later
  • “toolbox”: a way of talking about how we work that feels more like work-work


  • “Action Item”: i’m delegating tasks, but now we all feel more like superheroes
  • “…ping…”: (see: I’ll ping you later) read as “yay! more email because I can’t just tell you now.”
  • “Synergy”:  I’m not sure what’s happening, but let’s assume it’s awesome for everyone.
  • “Core Competency”: I can do at least one thing right.

Now, we all know, success is not just knowing the buzzwords, it’s also knowing when to use them.  I’ve provided a handy pocket guide to buzzword excellence in Figure 2. 

In all seriousness, many buzzwords emerge for good reasons.  They arise and stick because they accurately capture issues that we’re all facing regardless of industry, position or region.  In a sad way, they’re good indicators of what will be key initiatives for the corporate masses.  A more enlightened person than I may also say that they unify us all in the challenges that industry must solve to continue to evolve.  If that’s the case… new normal, 2020 and ideate would show that optimists see a bright future.  Black swans, new normal and chaos are all indicators that this optimism will be tempered by some major global challenges.  We’ll need all types – optimists and pessimists, skeptics and dreamers – to come together to solve these biggest challenges in 2012 and beyond.  Let’s just hope we have the right words to communicate with one another.


Matthew Davis
Research Director
3 years at Gartner
12 years IT Industry

Matt Davis is a Supply Chain Research Director and lead analyst for Supply Chain Strategy. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on 2012 Forecast for Corporate Buzzwords and Phrases

  1. Thank you — this is awesome!

  2. You forgot win-win!

  3. Ray B. says:

    Nice work, and I especially like the bell curve, but it may be a left skewed distribution since some terms never seem to disappear: Cool!

  4. Your Boss says:

    The current makes-me-want-to-scream phrase that seems to be in heavy rotation: “hone in on.” STOP IT. NOW. It’s “home in on.” Gaah. Pocket guide is my favorite — I want a picture of my head in a starburst at the top of column three.

  5. Janet S. says:

    Wow, I am out of the loop. I am not at all up-to-date on “tie-out”. Would you ping me about that so I can see what sticks and leverage it?? For future reference, I’d like to see a list that includes “seriously”. Because I wasn’t serious about what I was talking about before in this meeting, and now I am. Seriously.

  6. Jason Leary says:

    God bless you, Matt Davis.

  7. Wayne McDonnell says:

    Matt – terrific work, thanks for helping us consultants out! I am personally glad that “singing from the same sheet of music” seems to be dead, but wish that “at the end of the day” would hit the dead pile sooner. Where would “complexity” fall on the curve and where should we use this one?

  8. Action Item – is still widely used and can be moved up on the popularity index

    Few suggestions that are catching up recently are:

    Plan B
    Social Engineering
    Keep it simple
    Augmented reality
    Short term goals
    Big Data

  9. Chris says:

    Net-net, this is a major value-add.

  10. Daniella Scott says:

    How about \ paradigm shift\ aka: we really messed up ,now we need to ideate on how to go back to normal before it became the new normal…..

  11. Dave says:

    GAAAH!!!! If I hear one more person say “At the end of the day”, I’m gonna go postal…………………

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