Wednesday Nov 08, 2006

Eigen Vectors and buzz words


Recently, a new word has appeared in the speeches of various executives here at Sun. It is eigen vector.
They seem to use it to describe some entity that, when acted upon, will
automagically drive the company to ultimate success. Of course, nobody
will ever go so low as to explain what an eigen vector is, in the
context of their speeches. But, it is used in conversations as if it
were some kind of lever that one can act upon to provoque great changes
and effects.

Actually, an eigen vector is a characteristic of an
object (such as a matrix) which will not changed when transformations
are applied to the matrix. As such, if E(M) is the eigen vector of a
matrix M, and T(M) a transformation of M, then E(T(M))=E(M). So
actually, rather than being a lever, an eigen vector is a constant that
doesn't change. Significant difference there!

Other companies suffer from the eigen vector mania as well, but let's look here at what is happening.

Buzz
word mania at its best (or worse?). Every now and then, an executive
(or maybe a marketeer) will come up with a new expression, which
suddently, all the people who work around that person decide to use. It
immediately becomes a buzz word.
If you don't find ways to slip this buzz word in every other sentence
you pronounce, you are considered to be out of the trend. If you don't,
by one way or an other, figure out exactly what others mean by that
specific locution, you are also considered, out of the pack.

Does anybody remember "paradigm shift"?

I know this is something extremely common inside Corporate America.
You could almost say that it is one of the eigen vectors of Corporate
America. How ever you turn Corporate America, you will always find this
reliance on buzz words. In fact, from a sociological point of view,
this is just humanity's gregarian behavior showing very clearly that it
hasn't been completely wiped from our genes and behavioral paterns. It
brings comfort in thinking that you are doing what everybody else is
doing or talking about, so you can't really be wrong and faulted.

Unfortunately,
it also means that people hide themselves behind these buzz words in
order to maskerade their lack of adequation to the situation. Since
they know the buzz word, and use it in more or less the same context of
others... they must be as competent. So the trick is to distinguish the
user of a buzz word who knows what he is really talking about (even if
the buzz word is used incorrectly - in the case of our eigen vectors)
from the user of a buzz word who has no idea of what he is talking
about, but pretending to be in the know by using the code word, ahem, I
mean buzz word, of the day.

Let's make sure we set our
priorities right. Buzz words are comforting, for sure, but rather than
use a buzz word, why not make clear what we are talking about... and
express it properly to everybody. We gain in clarity. And employees
aren't feeling lost because they don't understand a word that everybody
else seems to take for granted.

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