Saying Nothing With Style: The 2014 BioPharma Edition of BS Bingo

6/30/14

Several years ago, I wrote an article venting my frustrations with having to sift through the fog and jargon of poorly written analyses of the biotech/pharmaceutical industry. I recounted that, “years ago, a thoughtful co-worker passed along to me a copy of a game called ‘BS Bingo’ that was designed to keep you awake during boring meetings and conference calls. Many of you will have played this game over the years. It consists of a 5 x 5 grid of current industry buzzwords and is designed to help focus your attention during those meetings (and we’ve all been there) where the speakers trot out every trite phrase and trendy jargon term currently circulating in the industry. The version I was given in the early ’90s included “synergy,” “win-win,” “think outside of the box,” “value added,” and “proactive.” Every time the speaker used one of these terms, you checked it off on your grid. If you successfully checked off a full row of terms, you were supposed to yell out “Bullsh*t” and bring the meeting to a thankfully foreshortened conclusion. It’s clearly time to update my copy.”

Well, I now have that updated version ready to share with Xconomy readers. Sadly, finding new examples of pharma jargon to populate the playing grid was not a very challenging exercise. Some organizations (and one global accounting/consulting firm in particular) seem to think that they can’t communicate effectively without using this bloated vocabulary. It brings to mind Herman Melville’s observation that “A man of true science uses but few hard words, and those only when none other will answer his purposes; whereas the smatterer in science thinks that by mouthing hard words he proves that he understands hard things.” Clearly there are a lot of smatterers out there.

Mining these phrases from their bloated narratives was pretty easy; they practically jumped off the page, even during even a casual reading. Much of this terminology was apparently born out of what “they” are calling Pharma 3.0, which differs in some poorly-defined way from version 2.0. Knowledgeable insiders tell me that Pharma 1.0 has now been relegated to a small antique store in downtown Hoboken, where it sits on a shelf next to the glass syringes and near the iron lungs.

Any bets as to how long it will be until Pharma 4.0 rears its ugly head?

Feel free to adapt this version of BS Bingo and replace any of the expressions here with better (actually, more trivial) ones. Use the Comments box below to share any “hot” terms that I may have missed. I hope this game helps you survive those tiresome presentations that, like corporate vampires, threaten to drain the lifeblood from your soul.

The 2014 BioPharma Edition of BS Bingo

Value
Leakages
Precision
Medicine
Big Data
Analytics
Sustainable Pharma 3.0
Disruptive Interoperability Strategically Open
Innovation
Organizational
Silos
“Secret Sauce” Healthy
Outcomes
Ecosystem
Transparency Information
Leveraging Technologies
Creative
Partnering
Trust Deficit Risk Evaluation
and Mitigation
Strategy
Bend the
Cost Curve
Payer
Engagement
Dataverse
Customer-
Centric
Fail Fast Optimizing
Networks
Segmentation Outcomes
Driven

 

Imagine being cast into the Tenth Circle of Corporate Hell (Jargon), where speakers routinely spew these terms like lava flowing from a volcano. While such a performance would crush my spirit, I can envision some of the poor souls in this Circle responding enthusiastically to the following remarks:

“Today I’d like to describe the disruptive, customer-centric approach to open innovation that our company is bringing to Pharma 3.0. Our “secret sauce” was created by incentivizing our thought leaders to deeply mine the dataverse that exists within each of our interoperable organizational silos. We strategically used creative partnering and information leveraging technologies to eliminate the trust deficit and value leakages with which we were previously afflicted. Transparency and payer engagement are the new hallmarks of our corporate culture. Big data analytics prove that our precision medicine projects really do fail faster than our competitors because they are purely outcomes driven. Optimization of our networks ensures that we have segmented our customers properly. These efforts will enable us to effectively bend the cost curve downward using proprietary risk evaluation and mitigation strategies. We are confident that these battle-tested tactics will lead to a sustainable, healthy-outcomes ecosystem that will ultimately benefit our loyal customers.”

For those of us who live above ground, try reading the above paragraph to your co-workers (or board of directors) the next time it’s your turn to chair a meeting, then gauge their response. Hopefully at least a few individuals will ask you what the heck you are talking about. Eyes should glaze over and quizzical looks should abound. If not, you’ll know that your audience has either succumbed to the Peter Principle or been replaced by the spawn of giant alien seedpods, as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Either way, it’s a clear sign from below that it’s time for you to look for a new job. Consider becoming a mime in Paris. The city is beautiful, you’ll never have to speak another word of American business jargon, and no one will ever suggest that you meet him or her at Eiffel Tower 2.0.

Stewart Lyman is Owner and Manager of Lyman BioPharma Consulting LLC in Seattle. He provides strategic advice to clients on their research programs, collaboration management issues, as well as preclinical data reviews. Follow @

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  • David Lippi

    I became familiar with the first edition of BS Bingo, while working for a large biotech company. While these exercises are funny and mostly on-point, they never suggest alternative terms. That’s a problem, because most of these terms mean something, something debatably good or bad, but with a few exceptions, their core concepts are rarely BS. It would be a shame to discredit the ideas behind the terms simply because poor corporate decision-making processes fail to take the time to agree on meaning.

  • Erica Jonlin

    I love the jargon-filled paragraph! Could you write another paragraph and also squeeze in the following “words” – “learnings” and “understandings” (both often preceded by “key”). I would also like to see some generous use of the word “space” (as in “intellectual property space” or “biotech space” – I think we used to say “arena” or “enterprise” which clearly are “outmoded”). Thanks so much for the laughs and recognition of this hifalutin Orwell-speak!