Suddenly, it’s everywhere.
Used in one of last year’s episodes of ABC-TV’s Modern Family and, now, as the title of an HBO-created movie.
Screaming at us via The Wall Street Journal’s headlines, and other media.
Front and center in book titles and, yes, in score-keeping apps.
Yup, you guessed it: “Game-changer.”
The original meaning, we understand, was simple, indicating a visionary person or institution who/which achieved breakthroughs with ideas and innovations that shifted the nature of business or the world. The late Steve Jobs was certainly a game-changer. Like him or not, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook qualifies. Other non-tech examples range from FedEx to the anonymous founders of Wikipedia. [Announcing our game-changer challenge: Everyone’s invited to identify lesser-known examples of GCs.]
Yet, after a while, the repeated use of any popular phrase wears thin. Especially when it’s applied to items and people who do not qualify, even with the broadest credentials, as innovative or insightful. John Cain and Sarah Palin in their 2008 U.S. Presidential race? A well-known oil company that angles for ideas submitted by engineers, designers, and other professionals? And, the latest game changer: Former professional athletes competing against amateurs in intramural games of all kinds?
Then come our next series of questions: If an individual or establishment is designated a game-changer, does the title ever need to be re-earned? And how would that be judged … and by whom? Here’s one very recent example: The current CEO of a well-respected Global 500 just admitted that the company had lost its innovative edge. So is there a Hall of Fame for the once and former game changers?
Okay, this is all purely silly conjecture. Yet ask yourself when the cursor continues to blink in your document: Is it easier to pick up a well-worn contemporary phrase – and hope your audiences will get it? Or, instead, examine the words that would be worthy of your meaning?