“Evolve” Lacks Precision
- On March 9, 2021
Did humans evolve from apes?
That’s a legitimate question and a legitimate use of the word evolve, which means to develop gradually.
Too often in business, however, companies use evolve to describe some sort of change, instead of just saying they’ve improved or updated whatever it is they’re changing.
- A company is going to evolve its HR policies to reflect the new demands on working parents.
- The new editor of a fashion magazine is evolving the publication’s profile as an arbiter of style.
- Consumer sentiment is evolving as countries around the world begin to reopen.
Here’s the rub: Evolve means things are happening slowly, but in business most things don’t happen slowly. Evolve is imprecise and leaves people with questions. In business, it’s not good to leave people with questions.
I would say the company is updating its HR policies, the new editor is strengthening the magazine’s profile, and consumer sentiment is improving as countries reopen—or, that after a nice long stretch buying everything online in our sweatpants, our attitudes about shopping have just plain changed.