Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And Then She Said Those Three Little Words...

“Center of Excellence.”

In fields such as health or technology, a Center of Excellence is often a place where top minds come together to share their knowledge and experience, and to strive for only the highest standards of achievement.

In the world of business, it’s a buzzword, a catchphrase designed to make something sound more impressive than it is. Affixing the label “Center of Excellence” to a group of talented or knowledgeable people does not automatically ensure that the work they create will, in fact, be excellent. On repeated hearings, the phrase sounds hollow and void of any real substance.

In a meeting today, someone proposed we create a Center of Excellence to help direct our company’s social media strategy.1 When I heard this, I died a little inside. Now, I’m all for getting the top minds together to make the best decisions, but if they’re seriously contemplating calling themselves the “Center of Excellence,” we need to find some better top minds.

I decided to do a little digging, and delved more into the meaning of Center of Excellence. As anyone can see, the center of “excellence” is two L’s. Or, in schoolyard parlance, “double hockey sticks.” However, I have it on good authority that any corporate Center of Excellence would have absolutely nothing to do with hockey. Not even air hockey. Nor would it involve football, turkey, zombies, monkey butlers, unrestrained laughter, skee-ball, ball pits, lasers, wolfsplosions, flux capacitors, hot fudge sundaes, footie pajamas, espionage and intrigue, Bill & Ted, Wayne & Garth, or C. Montgomery Burns.

How can something honestly be called “Excellent,” with a capital E, yet not contain a single one of these things? They might as well call it the Center of Mediocrity.2 At least that way, they won’t be getting anyone’s hopes up... and, if they succeed, they’ll look like geniuses!

Well, not like real geniuses. Real geniuses would have monkey butlers.3

1 Translation: help figure out how we can use things like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to get young people interested in a stodgy old insurance and financial services company. Like that’ll happen.
2 The center of “mediocrity” is, fittingly, the OC.
3 And lasers.


  1. Don't worry about the catchphrases. You just need to empower your center of excellence with the proper forward-looking agenda to achieve a world-class status.

    Once you Pareto the data from your market feedback analysis, you'll find you've exceeded the expectations of your mandate.

  2. I like your ideas of excellence. Except footie pajamas...I was always slighty terrified of them because were a ghost ever to haunt them they would have feet to walk around on. Whereas, should a ghost haunt regular pajamas they'd have to hunt around for some socks and shoes giving me valuable time to hide under my bed.

  3. Monkey butlers with LASERS? Brilliant!

  4. xonmus, I don't know if I can green-light such a proposal. It might require a paradigm shift, when all we really need to do is be proactive about this and leverage our core competencies by thinking outside the box.