Re: "Opportunistic"

Subject: Re: "Opportunistic"
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2009 14:52:32 -0800

Robert_Johnson -at- percussion -dot- com wrote:
> Some of my co-workers would like to use this word, but others are
> concerned about the negative connotation. They have a point; all the
> dictionary entries I've found emphasize its negative connotation, with
> shades of unscrupulous or unethical behavior.

I don't know what is wrong with dictionaries and thesauruses these
days--they seem to employ lexicologists who need to get out more often.

Opportunism, as a concept, is couched as a value neutral strategy, a
means to an end, that is enabled when a chance or serendipitous
opportunity presents itself.

Biology especially uses 'opportunism' in this purely descriptive sense.
If they didn't, an opportunistic parasite would mean something like
parasites that foreclose on orphanages, or have links to organized
crime. That is a definition that mirrors bankers and politicians, not
parasites. IOW, those unsavory actors have lent their identity to
opportunism, to opportunism's detriment. If you let it mean only that,
what term will mean simply seizing a chance when it presents itself?

> The idea people want to convey is a certain attitude
> they want employees to have, an attitude of seeking
> out opportunities (for new sales, to use
> new technologies, to innovate), and then following
> through on those opportunities (make the sale,
> apply the new technology to our product or
> processes, implement the innovation).

Hmmm, a word meaning to take advantage of the timeless opportunity to
invent something new, create a market for it, and sell it even to the
Eskimos. Hmmm. I don't think opportunistic is the right word at all.
"Industrious" comes to mind, as do some of the lifeboat scenes from
Titanic. Sorry, that's all I've got :-)

Ned "Noah" Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com


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"Opportunistic": From: Robert_Johnson

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