Tyler Cowen takes a stab at answering a reader question about why corporate communications is laden with so much BS:
People disagree in corporations, often virulently, or they would disagree if enough real debates were allowed to reach the surface. The use of broad generalities, in rhetoric, masks such potential disagreements and helps maintain corporate order and authority. Since it is hard to oppose fluffy generalities in any very specific way, a common strategy is to stack everyone’s opinion or points into an incoherent whole. Disagreement is then less likely to become a focal point within the corporation and warring coalitions are less likely to form.
I definitely agree with his theory that financial incentives can cut through the BS:
When direct financial incentives can work well, such as in sales (bonuses) or in some parts of finance, there is much more straight talk. Disagreement and candor can flourish, because the $$ keep the workers on a common track.
September 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm
I wouldn’t doubt that it is due to the Peter Principle as well. Mavericks (people who Get Things Done) are good for a business, but tend to get forced out after a while–due to too much change and turf boundary violations. These talented folks get bored after the mountains are all conquered, anyway.
What is left is a mediocre banana-broccoli shake: a group of people who barely know what they are doing, each trying hard to cover his/her a–, all the while playing the Turf War Game.
Writing a thorough, intelligent email/press-release/whatever is a) beyond their capability, and/or b) more risk than they are willing to take.