Because it’s Friday: Colors (Colours) – A celebration of color in our everyday lives

A delightful short film that highlights the wonderful array of colours that we are surrounded by everyday in those ordinary things that we don’t even notice.

Via Colossal.

This film is by the same team – The Mercadantes – that introduced us to Breath.

Office Speak: One Throat to Choke

A colleague used this phrase today followed by another colleague saying they had never heard it before. I was surprise because I’ve heard it used on many occasions, but that it doesn’t mean that I like it.

The phrase probably dates from the mid-1990’s but it’s not that widely used so it’s not easy to tell, Google Ngram shows 1990’s anyway.

For those of you who haven’t worked out what it means, this phrase is normally used in a business relationships. Business relationships can become complicated by multiple parties being in the interactions. What can then happen when there is a problem is that everyone looks to everyone else to resolve the issue. Simplifying a network of relationships into a single supplier can make problem resolution easier by giving an organisation one throat to choke, that’s the way the theory goes anyway.

IT has used this phrase a lot because most IT implementations involve many organisations; one organisation provides the network, another the storage, yet another the system software and someone different the application, someone else provides support and yet another organisation provides security software. That’s where an outsourcing organisation comes in and says “we’ll do that integration for you and you’ll have one throat to choke.

It sounds like a logical thing to do, but it comes with problems. Those problems have led many organisations to move away from this single-source model towards one where they use multiple-sources that they manage directly. I don’t want to get into what all of those issues are here, but it’s interesting to see a popular phrase from the mid-1990’s characterising a popular approach from that time being out of fashion some 20 years later. It’s not just the IT industry that has been through that change.

Having one throat to choke has always seemed to me like a very negative way of viewing it. The opposite of this phrase is having all of your eggs in one basket which is far more popular and it’s probably far more likely to be relevant.

Office Speak: Think outside the box

Today’s Office Speak appears on most buzzword lists that I’ve seen and rightly so.

At some point in the early 1990’s someone somewhere hit upon this phrase and it suddenly became popular. This is the Google Ngram viewpoint:

Before then none of us were aware that there was a box that we needed to think ourselves outside of.

According to Wikipedia the birth of this phrase was, in part, linked to the semi-famous nine-dots puzzle. The aim of the puzzle is to join together a matrix of nine-dots using four straight continuous lines. Most people struggle with the problem because they constrain themselves to drawing lines within the matrix, the answer involves drawing lines that extend beyond the matrix. In other words, the answer lies in thinking “outside the box”.

I quite like the idea that this phrase, much loved by workshop facilitators, had a basis in an interesting puzzle, but I suspect that most people who use it have no idea about it’s existence. I didn’t know until I did a bit of research and the image I had was more of a physical box.

Whilst the heritage of the phrase may be interesting it’s use in day-to-day business should be strongly discouraged. If you are a lover of these words I recommend that you stop using it and this is why:

  • It’s become noise to most people. They aren’t hearing what you’ve just said.
  • To some people it’s highly annoying.
  • Isn’t it just as easy to say: “can we do something creative”.

At the end of the day I’m still with Malcolm Gladwell:

“If everyone has to think outside the box, maybe it is the box that needs fixing.”

I’ll leave the final words to Dilbert: