Precision Reads & Reviews: "Why Do Business People Speak Like Idiots" and Metrology Terms Simplified

May 31, 2024

Metrology Terms Simplified and Why Do Business people Speak Like Idiots

In metrology, we think that we are speaking the same language. However, if one takes a quick poll on the term calibration, one will learn that many people say calibration includes adjustments when the VIM is quite clear that it does not. Many people use metrological terms and confuse their meaning. Maybe even you have been guilty of confusing definitions. When I read Why Do Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky, I quickly made many comparisons with what I have heard or learned during my last two-plus decades in metrology.

Why Do Business People Speak Like Idiots starts with a fair assessment of how companies can be long-winded without getting to the point. There were several examples of unnecessary jargon. Companies use wordiness to dance around topics, such as downsizing, to evade being straight with people. The importance of straight talk is discussed in detail, and some examples are downright hilarious.

 Metrology Terms Simplified and Business Communication Today

The authors raise a pertinent point about the state of business communication today. They argue that it has become mundane and predictable. One aspect they delve into is the automation of PowerPoint presentations, a tool that simplifies the process of copy-pasting. This discussion is particularly relevant and thought-provoking.

PowerPoint templates can simplify presentations, making it easier for listeners to tune out the presenter. “A set of twenty uniform text slides doesn’t interest us; we like variety, there is meaning to things that are different. Templates that let us quickly churn out presentations steal our chance to be creative. They force brilliant and stupid ideas into the same format,” state the authors. They then included a fascinating PowerPoint example involving the space shuttle Columbia disintegrating into the Earth’s atmosphere.

On January 24, 2003, a debris assessment team delivered a formal briefing using a PowerPoint presentation. The team warned of the risks. Even NASA admitted that the PowerPoint might have played a vital role in the communications failure. It is evident from quotes like “review of test data indicates conservatism for the tile presentation.” The slide pictured below is an excellent example of too much crammed into a PowerPoint slide, which many did not pay attention to. Is it possible to get the real message from all this technical information overload?

Why business people speak like idiots











When you read this slide, what comes to mind?  The word “significant” should be because it appears five times and means 400 %. The author suggests that all this information could have been reduced to one line, “the damage is potentially catastrophic.” The authors suggest that the board stopped short of saying PowerPoint caused the disaster. Referring to someone who used the software badly, they said that simple pictures of the test showing the damage would have likely gotten the proper reaction needed to help prevent the disaster.

Metrology Terms Simplified and Jargon

Why Do Business People Speak Like Idiots has many more vivid examples and sections: voicemails, vacation reminders, and other topics.  One of my favorite sections gave several examples of jargon businesses use to sell their products. We have all been on the consumer end of these terms, including being the center of excellence, world-class, and pushing the envelope.

The authors do a great job of poking fun at one hundred-plus words. For example, they say that a center of excellence is a “Vortex of incomparable splendor, the hub of magnificence, the apex of awesomeness, whatever. No one likes anyone who works in any of these.” World-class is, “whenever someone has to affix the ‘world-class’ label to anything, rest assured it isn’t.” Pushing the envelope means “doing something better than it has ever been done before. But usually used to describe a competent job at any suitably obscure task.”

I could not help reflecting on how to the point these words are. Why can we not just speak like humans and let people know what we do, how we do it, and how it may or may not help them? Why Do Businesspeople Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide is an effortless read with some key takeaways.

Every lesson should give the reader some chuckles or concern, using very easy-to-understand language that helps improve your ability to communicate with other humans using simple words. Proper communication will help your organization with customers, vendors, and everyday people. The authors discuss the “traps” that many businesspeople fall into, explain how this may happen, and advise how to avoid traps in the future.

Metrology Terms Simplified

Knowing many people in metrology, I believe we will continue to use metrological terms. However, we may better explain these terms to others who may not understand them. Maybe we can speak more directly and to the point about issues we face and not use too much jargon when the audience does not understand. Not doing so could lead to disappointment, bad practices, or catastrophic failure.

For example, instead of saying, “Not purchasing the proper top compression block may cause calibration results not to match that of the standardizing laboratory.  When a load cell is under compressive force, a significant stress distribution on the element can be realized, leading to increased strain and deformation of the material.” We should simplify the jargon and say, “Not purchasing the proper top compression block for force calibration is a terrible practice that may result in significant measurement errors.”

I highly recommend Why Do Business People Speak Like Idiots to anyone who values communication, manages people, or deals with others as part of their daily job function.


Henry Zumbrun is President of Morehouse Instrument Company.

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Companies around the globe rely on Morehouse for accuracy and speed.

Our measurement uncertainties are 10-50 times lower than the competition.

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