Review Reviewed

Via Sally Helgesen writing at, we get a book recommendation, that is, Laura Rittenhouse's Investing Between the Lines: How to Make Smarter Decisions by Decoding CEO Communications. Sally explains the background of the book and Laura's Rittenhouse Rankings, where companies' CEO letters and other forms of corporate communications are scored on transparency and language that indicates truth-telling, using techniques of forensic investigators and SEC analysts. Points are deducted for FOG, "fact-deficient, obfuscating generalities." I love that term. Who hasn't been frustrated by jargon-filled messages with no apparent meaning?

Tom started a Twitter thread on 18 August, and people jumped in enthusiastically with their faves (see the whole list, with credits, at "read more" below): mind-mapping, blue sky thinking, business transformation, discuss off-line, there's a disconnect, war room and all military metaphors, team player, bang for buck. And the winners are! ... "firm up over the grey areas" and "may or may not be related to." FOG? Absolutely.

In her book review, Sally goes on to say that Rittenhouse garnered criticism for trying to quantify something as soft as words. As Tom has said many times, "Hard is soft. Soft is hard," i.e., it's a cinch to make the numbers show whatever you want to prove, but the soft stuff like words is much harder. And, with forensic analysis, harder to hide behind. Trying to obscure the truth will reveal itself, and be publicized in the Rittenhouse Rankings.

Thanks to Sally Helgesen for sending this story our way.

Tom Peters @tom_peters 18 Aug
Some overused phrases I'd rather never hear again: Youneedacoach. Beauthentic. Empoweryourpeople. I'ma6sigmablackbelt.

Jeff Broman @GoTravelzing 18 Aug
I would add "We are in the ________ Space " & "Mind Mapping"

Heather Townsend @HeatherTowns 18 Aug
how about 'lets do some blue sky thinking'... should be banned as well

Vala Afshar @ValaAfshar 18 Aug
other over-used phrases: think outside the box, business transformation, leadership vs management differences.

Dennis Jolley @dsjutah 18 Aug
"Let's discuss this off-line."

Express Hamilton @HIEHamilton 18 Aug
Personal favourite at moment is "there is a disconnect" = people not communicating clearly I think

radbcc @radbcc 18 Aug
team player...

Scott Smith @smackaysmith 18 Aug
War room -- really, any military metaphors.

Andrey Khusid @Khusya 18 Aug
I want to see a big picture

Mike Whitehead @Mike_White_Head 18 Aug
If I never hear the words 'biggest bang for your buck' again it will be too soon.

Colin Quinn @realcolinquinn 18 Aug
the most ridiculous phrase? I was in a session where we were told to " firm up over the grey areas".

todd lowe @toddlowe 18 Aug
worst phrase ever? Just heard newscaster say "may or may not be related to ..." Duh. Really?

Cyndy de Nuno @cdenuno 18 Aug
How about "win/win"?

Bill Fonda @ucsu94 18 Aug
"Do more with less," especially from people who don't have to.

Nigel Pearson @SplottBoy 18 Aug
The 'pinch point' came when I was giving '110%' at 'pushing the envelope' when I should have been 'thinking outside of the box'.

Cathy Mosca posted this on September 20, 2013, in Leadership.
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