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Sunday Soundbite

Naming of parts: who screwed up the language?

Chris Field
Chris Field

I agree with Chip Wilson, the word ‘athleisure,’ coined apparently by the New York fashion mafia, sorry, media, sucks. What in fact does it actually mean? Think Lululemon and you think fashion and you think fitness, you don’t think about athletics and you certainly don’t think about leisure. Sure, the denizens of my local supermarket are doing their best to put the word leisure into athletics, but the word still remains inappropriate for this brand, and others of that ilk.

Sorry, what?

It doesn’t stop there. I admit I kind of liked the phrase Internet of Things when I first heard it, but I’ve since learned that sticking the word things into a sentence is really only a way of admitting that you don’t what you mean. Remember how hard we all had to work, to work out what IoT meant and when we found out, we realised that it didn’t really work for what happens in the real world.

No one liked omnichannel but we were kind of stuck with it until we realised that it also does not really mean anything to either retailers or their customers.

Name that concept

And so on. Now, I appreciate I am being tough retrospectively as the meaning of so many terms has morphed over the years, to render the original meaning redundant. Why have a go at people who were trying hard at the time to encapsulate new concepts into short words or phrases? Frankly, could I have done better?

Possibly not, but what worries me is, we fight to communicate with each other through the thick walls of a word or phrase, and often end up with a whole new idea which is not even close to what the originator intended. Then everyone’s expectations are raised to the point where the original concept cannot possibly deliver what it was hoped it would. For instance, I believe in the good intentions behind IoT, but I no longer believe that the journey is worth sticking with. You can Internet of Things any number of devices you like, but you won’t have the right data, and the right interactions between those data to actually extract value.

Let’s stop the fake terminology

That’s a whole other journey that is probably taking place out of sync with IoT, supported by a more recent concept that is meant to be a panacea, Artificial Intelligence and/or Machine Learning (I never can tell which is what). So now, we have smart ways to extract value from data and the machines to gather, process and report on it. Except that, the terminology promises immediate results, while in retail, we are probably five or more years away from that actually happening.

I may be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But, can we agree to stop letting fake terminology get the better of us, and just sit down and try and work out how to fix the problems facing us right now. Sure, sell me a dream, but I need some guarantees that you can deliver it in my lifetime.

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