- On April 10, 2018
Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, was talking about what it was like when the Estée Lauder Companies bought her brand back in 1995. As a creative person, she bristled at the nonsense of corporate-speak. “Things like ‘optimize’,” she recently told The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd, flummoxed her. “That just means ‘do it better!’”
Brown makes a good point.
The word optimize means to make the best use of a situation or resource. It is frequently used to couch things that could be done better—something companies typically aren’t comfortable talking about. I’ve seen corporate missives about SG&A optimization, which is code for “Let’s save money by spending our resources more wisely.” (SG&A refers to selling, general and administrative expenses.) In an email to employees about cutting back corporate expenses to help fund growth, one CEO got mired in SGA-optimization talk—only to end up giving commonsense tips like, ship things via two-day delivery, not overnight; hold virtual, not in-person, meetings; and produce digital rather than printed reports. All of which qualify as “doing it better.”
As an employee, I would have been happy with an email that said simply, “We need to spend more wisely and here are ways we can do it.” He even could have titled it, “Let’s do it better.”