Jargon of the Day: Operationalize

Jargon: Operationalize

Translation: This piece of jargon bugs me because it used to have a meaning and it doesn’t any more. The original meaning was pleasingly specific and complex. It meant finding a way to measure a nebulous concept. For example, you might want to measure a nation’s level of happiness. You could operationalize that – find something to measure – by using the number of cheerful songs played on national radio, or the number of depression diagnoses.

That useful definition, however, is now long gone. Instead, operationalize means whatever people want it to mean. Usually they use it to mean something like implement, operate, or do.