Clear, accurate exchange of information in a service setting is import to value co-creation. Then why isn’t that true in research papers?

One journal article states, “Interactions take place during service encounters and are typically dialogical processes that merge into one integrated process of coordinated action.” Isn’t that the same as saying,”People talk to each other during service encounters which allows them to collaborate?” Or, if you want to get fancy, “A dialogue between customer and service provider during service encounters facilitates the outcome.” Why use ‘dialogical process’, for crying out loud, when what you really mean is ‘talk?’

A (refreshingly clear) report from the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden reveals that the readability of scientific abstracts steadily decreased between 1881 and 2015. That’s a problem, they assert, because it makes them less understandable and the results harder to reproduce.

The ‘collaborate’ and ‘facilitate’ word I used are fancy words, too, admittedly; but like ‘distinct’, novel’, ‘robust,’ and ‘underlying’—all familiar words in everyday use—they’re far more prevalent in scientific literature. None of them are difficult words, inherently, but when they accumulate they make a simple concept opaque (um, hard to undestand).

Corporate gobbledygook is just as bad. What does, “proactively synergize resource-leveled customer experience,” mean. Or “efficiently driven focused retail relationships?”

Consider this from a study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Researchers scanned people’s brains while they repeated positive affirmations. The research showed that:

“Participants who were affirmed (compared with unaffirmed participants) showed increased activity in key regions of the brain’s self-processing (medial prefrontal cortex + posterior cingulate cortex) and valuation (ventral striatum + ventral medial prefrontal cortex) systems.”

In plain English, hearing and using positive words changes your thought patterns. And, ultimately, your behavior which is the point of the study and why I bring it up here.

The more you hear corporate-speak, and the more you read and write research-speak, the more it influences how you think. Otherwise intelligent people will begin to believe that vague concepts like “disruptive innovation,” “business ecosystem,” and “collaborative culture” actually mean something.

But they don’t, and when you’re exposed to that kind of gobbledegook on a daily basis your brain loses its innate ability to identify obviously muddleheaded thinking (also known as bullshit).

The problem is multifaceted (oops, sorry, there are a lot of reasons why the problem exists). For one, people seem to believe that jargon and complexity somehow make science writing more authoritative or the author more important. Why? Because science is, to a great extent, authority-based. And that’s a problem because many established, talented researchers aren’t good writers (nor are many good writers authorities, for that matter).

Certainly, not every use of heterogeneous is evidence that an author is being intellectually ostentatious (showing off), not every long noun formed with a multisyllabic suffix is evidence that an author is slothfully work-shy (lazy), nor is every sentence over 40 words necessarily bullshit.

As German philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing put it,

The greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clairty.


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