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Boilerplate banality

Boilerplate banality
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First Published: Thu, Nov 04 2010. 11 56 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Nov 04 2010. 11 56 PM IST
As a responsible journalist working for a respectable national business newspaper engaged in cutting edge business journalism, one of the questions I am most often asked by friends and family is this: “Dude I have nothing to do in office. Give me something fun to read.”
Something fun to read. Right now. Ideally 2,000 words long. So I can finish during lunch break, or while this presentation on “Corporate Focus Retreat 2010” is going on.
Usually I oblige with hyperlinks. Mostly Wikipedia entries—“The London Beer Flood”—or quirky news stories—“Shark smuggling ring discovered operating out of church in San Franscisco”.
(Both true.)
However, it gives me great pleasure to announce today that I have developed an even better option for employees seeking amusement in the office. This game can be played with two or more employees. But there is, as we shall see shortly, an option for single-person fun also.
The game goes like this. One person, called the “Spieler Dealer”, opens the website of a random company and then browses to the section that may be labelled as: Careers, Human Resources, People, Human Capital, Our Most Important Assets, Our Partners, Work With Us, Jobs, Join Us, Be A Team Member, Join Our Family and the reprehensible Be A “Company Name”—er.
The first thing you will see on this page, besides the photos of happy people pointing at each other casually, will be a few paragraphs of text. This lofty text, usually written with the most unforgivable hyperbole, is used to attract potential recruits.
If the Spieler Dealer cannot immediately find this banal boilerplate, then please look for a link that says “Why us?” or “Why join us?”
Now copy this text, remove any obvious references, paste into an email and then send it out to all the other participants. The players, or “Jargonauts”, must now guess the name of the company that the text belongs to. Bonus points may be awarded if they can guess the sector. The Jargonaut who guesses correctly becomes the next Spieler Dealer. And so on.
What fun and enjoyment! Who doesn’t like to guess the origin of corporate jargon and company website overkill? I certainly do!
Now there are several things going for this game which I think could make this the next beach volleyball.
First of all, there is an infinite source of material for the Spieler Dealer. Every company that has a website usually puts up a careers section where they use all the generic copy left over from the rest of the site:
“Come join our singularity of vision, irregularity of thought and clarity of purpose. Be a part of the world’s number one knowledge-based company that doesn’t just push the envelope, but tears through it, leaving large gaping holes in the paper behind. Are you an envelope-tearer? Then we want you. We don’t care what you did or who you are or where you’re from, as long you we love you. Walk in any time. Details below:
Currently there are no vacancies.”
Secondly, access to the websites of other companies are usually not blocked. You should have no trouble accessing this information. And in case careers sections are blocked, then you can always use Google’s cache. This is easily available.
Thirdly, this game can be very difficult.
This is because firms use spectacularly generic copy. It can be almost impossible to tell who it is or even what sector they work in. Let us look at two real examples:
People create success, which is why we go to great lengths to attract, inspire and reward creativity and talent. As a global business, our people come from all over the world and represent different nationalities, educational backgrounds and life experiences. We welcome their unique perspectives, their energy and ideas and their willingness to learn as well as to teach.
And then this:
It’s a company with a conscience. It’s one of the fastest growing companies in the world. The opportunities for you are endless. You get on to a global track. It is the pioneer, and the best practitioner. It is redefining the way business is done. It lets you enjoy entrepreneurial freedom. You get the freedom to make decisions and the freedom to experiment and take calculated risks.
I will give you a few moments to guess.
Time up. The first one is Goldman Sachs. The second one is Infosys.
And to make things harder, companies seldom pay too much attention to their careers pages. They are rarely original. See this excerpt from the career section of Durk.com, an edgy Dutch design and art agency:
Creatives create success, which is why we go to great lengths to attract, inspire and reward creativity and talent.
Now compare to Goldman Sachs’ text. Creative no?
As for lone individuals, there is a simple variation of this game. Open your company’s website. Browse to the careers section. Read. Now roll on the floor and laugh, as is the norm these days.
I can see an iPhone app of the game going viral. Send your favourite spiels to the ID below please.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Nov 04 2010. 11 56 PM IST