Word of the Day: Omphaloskepsis

Quote of the Day

Mastery lives quietly atop a mountain of mistakes.

— Eric Greitens, in Resilience. This statement could not be more true. It is similar in spirit to a quote by the great physicist Niels Bohr, "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field."

Figure 1: Four People Contemplating Their Navels. (Source)

Figure 1: Four People Contemplating Their Navels. (Source)

I was sitting in a management meeting today that seemed to be rather unproductive. It ended up in a philosophical discussion that did not go anywhere. I commented that we seemed to be engaging in omphaloskepsis, which is the name for the ancient Greek practice of contemplating one's navel (Figure 1). I first heard this word at Orbital ATK, where it was used to describe some of the meetings there.

No one else in today's meeting had heard the word before, but we all agreed that it bore some relationship to what occurred during our meeting. I thought I would share this word with you – some of you may sit in meetings like this.

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2 Responses to Word of the Day: Omphaloskepsis

  1. mark tucker says:

    Many thanks for this great word. This goes in my lexicon today!

    • mathscinotes says:

      There are meetings where people are constantly using words like:

      • synergy
      • disruptive
      • swim lane
      • drinking the Kool-Aid
      • net-net (I really dislike this one)

      During these meetings, I can feel an urge for my eyes to drop down and begin staring at my navel.


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