Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Agile and the “Semantic stretch”

I have recently come across the term “semantic stretch” while reading a book called “Made to stick” by the Heath brothers. In short the idea is that at some point a term becomes so over used that it no longer has the strong meaning it used to have before. I have noticed this with phrases like “very cool” which has become too common and was then replaced by “super cool”. The example in the book is a little more credible – the authors have researched the use of the words “unusual” and “unique” in American newspapers over 20 years and the established that “unique” has gained a huge popularity while “unusual” was in decline. The Heath brothers also point out that since unique things are also unusual things (subset) the trend is unlikely to be because of increased number of unique things because that will also increase the number of unusual things.

I have recently been thinking and communicating with friends about how the use of words like Agile and Scrum has become less credible, in one instance I even suggested that these terms have been vandalised and therefore we may need new ones. Thanks to “Made to stick” I think I found a better suited explanation. The term Agile and some more in that area have been semantically stretched. They have been overused, used in inappropriate ways and to describe things and contexts that are so very remote from what the original  meaning meant. Therefore I suggest that we need new term( s ). Could this be the ones suggested by the Rightshifting movement?