Over the past 10 days I have received more than a dozen emails that refer to driving. People are driving change, driving responses, driving learning, driving sales, and driving customers.
What's with all the driving? And what precisely do the writers mean?
Below are examples excerpted from messages in my inbox. Can you be certain what each drive means?
- The best HR business partners collaborate with leaders to drive strategies.
- We offer the information and tools you need to drive impactful change at your organization.
- Drive business decisions for your organization through total workforce visibility.
- Find out what the most effective learning organizations are doing to drive learning transfer and increase the value of training.
- This book reveals how you can drive a world-class HR function in your company using both your head and your heart.
- We will drive continuous improvement, engagement, development, and learning opportunities to deliver great business results.
- Tailor your ads to drive sales on specific offerings or promotions.
- Drive more customers to your website this year.
It's easy to say we all know what the writers meant by drive, but I am not so certain. What does it mean to "drive a world-class HR function"? What are we doing when we "drive business decisions"?
I admit I do know what it means to "Drive more customers to your website." It means to send them there. But the verb drive feels vague to me even in that example. I wonder how we will drive them there. By inviting them? Engaging them? Enticing them?
To consult the experts, I pulled out my Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition for definitions of drive. These definitions and examples from M-W show the many meanings of drive that might apply to the sentences in my email:
- to give shape or impulse to (factors that drive the business cycle)
- to carry on or through energetically (drive a hard bargain)
- to set or keep in motion or operation (drive machinery by electricity)
- to operate the mechanism and controls and direct the course of (drive a car)
- to exert inescapable or coercive pressure on, force
- to urge relentlessly to continuous exertion (the sergeant drove his recruits)
- to press or force into an activity, course, or direction (the drug habit drives addicts to steal)
- to project, inject, or impress incisively (drove her point home)
To support precise language, I recommend a no-driving day for business writers. On that day writers would choose a more precise word or phrase than drive. Depending on the context, writers might choose lead, manage, oversee, control, cause, plan, inspire, increase, create, invite, urge, encourage, maintain, implement, support, or something else that clearly expresses their meaning.
Would you support the no-driving day? Or is the word drive essential to your business messages?