- On May 27, 2014
“I want to go upstream as much as possible and take the premium dollar at the source,” a hospital executive said in a news article about hospitals starting their own health insurance plans.
Go upstream? What does that mean? I looked up the reference and learned it has to do with supply chain. (More down below on what I think he meant by going upstream to get top dollar where the river starts.)
A while later, I heard an executive in another industry talk about going upstream.
There’s that term again. But this executive was not talking about supply chain. I was confused by what he meant. I checked the reference again.
Turns out executive No. 2 was simply talking about going against the current. The business model he was describing would be too difficult to succeed—just like swimming against the current.
I felt like an idiot.
I’m sure neither executive wanted me to feel like an idiot.
Why does corporate America slip into jargon so easily? Of the many reasons, these two strike me as the most likely:
- Jargon-talk can be easier than plain-talk, which often requires more thought.
- Jargon can be conveniently imprecise. I suspect the hospital executive would have found it impolitic to say hospitals would make more money if they charged patients directly, which is what I think hospital-man was saying. But then again, I’m not entirely sure.
Take the time to write—and speak—in plain language. Don’t assume your audience knows your jargon. Furthermore, one term can mean one thing to one company and something else to another.