More on Jargon: The Problem With “Solutions”

In a recent column on New Economy jargon, I realize now, I left out something crucial, which is the rise of the “solution.” No one sells “products” anymore; everyone sells “solutions.” (Not “tools,” by the way, which was in vogue for a while but is now seen as a foolish bit of obfuscation.) Actually that’s not quite right: “Solutions” are not “sold,” but rather either “offered” or perhaps “provided.”

An ad for a company called APC touts its “power availability solutions.” has “the perfect server solution.” ASD Systems can give you a “proven one-stop e-commerce systems and service solution.” CMGI Solutions … speaks for itself. NCR introduces “relationship solutions.” Nortel Networks’ “optical solutions will enable people to collaborate.” A company called Brigade reports: “Our outsource solution brings you the people, the process, the proven experience and the leading edge technologies necessary to succeed on the Internet.” Whew. All this is from a quick skim through the first half of a business magazine on the floor of my office, but it seems like plenty.

Once again, those forward-thinking Internet types are showing the rest of the world where the future lies–or perhaps I should say they are offering “pretentious differentiation solutions.” Vodka, for example, might be positioned as a “reality-avoidance solution.” Delta offers “location-change solutions.” Philip Morris provides “nicotine-deficiency solutions.” And perhaps a marketing firm might step up and offer a fresh “jargon-overkill solution.” But that, I suspect, would be asking too much.