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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Mon 29
Mar
2004

Lunch with the Generals

Max Once every few months, I have lunch with a bunch of ex-Hewlett-Packard employees. Unlike me, most of these guys have real jobs, so they’re still in that bizarre business world I’m no longer a part of. This makes the lunches a little like anthropological surveys for me; I get to peek in and see what’s happening. And what’s happening, apparently, is that everybody’s “adding value.”

I know this phrase is not new. But last time I checked, it was mostly in annual reports and speeches by incoming General Managers. Now it’s everywhere. A business failed because “it wasn’t adding value;” a woman’s job is to “add value to the channel;” one man offered to help me with my new novel by “adding value to your sales and marketing strategies.”

Now, okay, value is important. You gotta have the value. But “add value” as a phrase has clearly reached the point where it’s no longer conveying any useful information. It’s adding no value. It’s so broad you can use it in any situation. Here, watch. My job as a writer is to “add value to letters.” My pajamas, which I’m wearing right now, are “adding value to my legs.” I married Jen because she “adds value to my daily living experience.” I saw Tomb Raider 2 on the plane, but it “added no value to excrement.”

The only way to rid the world of this expression is to overuse it so grossly that everyone gets sick of it. So if you’re at work today, really pack it in to your conversations. There’s no reason why every sentence coming out of your mouth can’t include “add value.” If people start to look at you funny, that just means it’s working. And if they nod their heads wisely and talk about strategic vision, it’s time to look for another job.

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