Why you’ll hear ‘mutuality’ a lot this year

Everyone loves a game of boardroom bingo and we all know a middle manager who spouts corporate cliches to cover up the fact that they have no ideas of their own.

As a business writer, it’s often my job to strip that stuff out of corporate comms and translate the buzzwords into words normal people actually use. Yet every year, a new slew of words appears, catches on, and runs riot.

Of course, this doesn’t just happen in business. The public voted ‘goblin mode’ as the word of last year, closely followed by ‘metaverse’.

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Just as Oxford University Press spots words on the rise in the world at large, I and my writer colleagues at Schwa keep an eye out for the ones bubbling up in the tens of thousands of words of websites, policies and speeches we rewrite for corporate clients ever year, and predict the ones most likely to take hold this year.

Why ‘mutuality’ was our winner

We found ‘mutuality’ popping up in the words of academics, CEOs and HR directors, particularly when talking about culture. It captures a shift in the dynamics of the workplace, especially, post-Covid, where a good work relationship is a win-win for the employer and the employee, rather than it all being in the company’s favour.

Of course, it’s not a new word, but it’s being used to capture a new mood.

‘Hypergrowth’ wasn’t far behind. Not surprisingly, it’s about the stage in a company’s development when it grows really fast – especially in a recession when your competitors are getting wiped out. We find businesspeople love these words with a pseudo-scientific edge. It takes a simple idea, and makes it a little more dramatic (just as ‘goblin mode’ makes ‘slobbing around’ more vivid).

Third went to ‘sustainovation’ – innovating, but in a sustainable way, obvs. This time a made-up word saves you a few syllables and makes it sound like you’ve come up with a whole new concept.

So should you be using these words?

It’s easy to drag buzzwords, but there are genuine dangers. They can make you sound like you’re just jumping on the latest bandwagon. And more importantly, as soon as you hear anything too much, it starts to lose its power.

A client told me once about their internal campaign for operational excellence; after banging on about it for six months, they looked at all their internal measures and found it hadn’t made the blindest bit of difference. Except in one team; they’d really improved. Why? The person running it had a weekly meeting called ‘Doing everyday things better’. She was the only person who translated the buzzwords into everyday language, and the only person whose team did anything differently.

Neil Taylor is the founder of Schwa and author of Brilliant Business Writing