The overused word of the century

September 3, 2008, 2:50 PM UTC

I was at a meeting yesterday, one of those painful presentations where a guy comes in, does twenty minutes of PowerPoint, and nearly turns his entire career to suet. That is neither here nor there. I mean, those things happen all the time. This time, it was Badnick’s turn.

What was interesting to me is that in the middle of the debacle, I heard a small snap. It was the sound of a straw breaking a camel’s back. During the meeting, I realized that a certain word has now been so overused, so over-extended, so bled of any meaning, freshness or appropriateness, that it must now be retired.

That word is Leverage.

I believe I first noticed its widespread acceptance perhaps twenty years ago, at a point in history when debt became more meaningful than equity in the construction of business deals. Suddenly, everybody was Leveraging everything. The word was still used, however, in conjunction with its original meaning — something having to do with a little bit of debt moving a mountain of equity, I think. It was always vague. Something to do with small moving big. Archimedes and all that.

Thus Leverage joined Excellence, Quality and Impactful as annoying words with which one was expected to deal on a daily basis, at least for a time. And now that time has come.

I stopped counting when Badnick had utilized the word 35 times in 15 minutes. “We’re going to be leveraging the headcount to achieve maximum leverage over the marketplace by leveraging our leverage where it has the most impactful impact,” he said, or something very much like it.

At this stage of the game, revenue is leveraged, employees are leveraged, positioning is leveraged, in fact I believe there is nothing that is not being leveraged or incapable of leverage-ness. I’m half expecting somebody to tell me that they’re leveraging their toast to maximize their breakfast positioning. Half the time, people aren’t even aware they’re doing it. It’s crazy. Let’s stop.

Next up? Tipping point.