Updated: Sep 12, 2020
A daily writing practice makes you a smarter, more precise communicator, and can help you be emotionally-resilient.
You’ve heard or read that “writing is exercise for the brain.” While speaking skills are important, it’s writing that cognitively powers you up! The more you write, the sharper your rational and logical thinking. The more you put pen to paper, the better your mental gymnastics.
So Dear Reader, why aren’t you practising writing every day?
Poor Writing Is The Norm In B2B IT
I don’t know what it is about writing, but there’s a lot of resistance to doing it, which means that when people are forced to write, it’s frequently not very good.
Have you sat in meetings where clever people (you might be one of them) are bandying about smart ideas for days on end, but when asked to commit them to paper, struggle, and then spend most of their time looking for ‘source’ material?
What’s going on here!?
Most people in B2B IT either hate writing or resentfully tolerate it; they certainly get no pleasure out of writing. (I admit this is my opinion based on my experiences, but I challenge you to disagree) :)
Contrary to the hype that it’s all about visual communications today, I think it’s about being able to craft a cohesive and coherent narrative, particularly in the world of B2B IT, where we have to easily explain things that are complex and difficult without dumbing down our message.
And sure, that’s not an easy thing to do. It takes effort.
Using A Lot Of Words Doesn’t Make You A Good Writer
Here’s another interesting thing in B2B IT. People don’t like writing but when we ask for some words, “just three pages please”, they give us ten. And, it’s ten pages of content that hasn’t gone through any rigorous thought process, or time spent reviewing drafts to assess the validity of ideas and how they link to support the central premise. Instead, there’s a tendency to throw up on the page and pad out the mess with boilerplate.
Yet, if you wrote what you were thinking, then conscientiously read back what you were thinking, your thinking and writing would evolve. If you did this for several drafts, I guarantee, your assertions or arguments would shape up nicely.
But that rarely happens, with the excuse, “I don’t have time.”
I don’t think it’s a time problem; I think it’s a belief problem. There aren’t enough people in leadership that believe writing impacts business success one way or the other.
I want to ask you a question, Dear Reader: What about you? Do you believe that the ability to write well is a competitive advantage while poor writing equals lost opportunities and profits?
If you believe it’s of no importance one way or the other, then you might want to think about one of the most successful entrepreneurs and e-commerce pioneers. He well understands the connection between writing and developing innovative ideas. It’s one of the reasons his company continues to dominate the marketplace.
How Jeff Bezos Uses An Old-Fashioned Method To Rule The World
Quite a few years ago, Jeff Bezos did away with PowerPoint as the tool to talk about ideas. Instead, he installed a practice whereby his leadership team has to write a six-page narrative memo before they turn up to meetings. The act of writing full sentences and paragraphs forces his people to think more critically about their ideas, to chew over them longer, and hone their rationales. Jeff Bezos frequently cites this as a reason for Amazon’s success.
It makes me wonder if we could apply this writing process in B2B IT? Instead of the usual sales pipeline meetings, we could ask salespeople to turn in a six-page narrative about their opportunities. (Humour me). What about the technical team on a bid? What if after several days spent whiteboarding, they handed over a six-page, thoughtfully articulated and well-edited memo, precisely describing the what, how, when and why?
I can only dream.
Writing Helps Exercise Your Executive Function
Writing things down also helps us manage our behaviour or assess future actions better.
One of the most important cognitive processes in business is risk assessment. If we act without proper analysis, we stand to lose a lot of money.
When it comes to assessing risk, writing it down helps to answer better: “Should we go this way to expand our territory or that way?” It also helps us better assess the risk to a client when proposing something new. We don’t want to lead them in a direction that will break their business.
And that’s why ideas that are only spoken mean little as they tend to float in the air and disappear into the ether. But writing grounds our words, especially narrative writing. When we see our thoughts on a page, we suddenly notice the weakness of our logic or the lack of our understanding.
Something Else: Writing Is Better Than Taking Drugs
Writing practise also helps with this:
Your memory and ability to learn. Do you like taking notes by hand in meetings or when attending training in person or virtually? I do and have since discovered that when you take notes by hand, it improves knowledge retention. Hopefully, you have better handwriting than me. I sometimes struggle to read it back, but I figure out the scribbles with my memory. :)
Concentration and focus: Feeling distracted? Do a writing exercise. Pick a word that represents the theme of whatever it is you’re supposed to write about and start freewriting, which is when you write whatever thoughts come to you without stopping to fix grammar or assess the narrative structure. Keep at it and you’ll notice your mind will snap to attention and begin to give you lots of ideas to play with. (Just don’t hand that in as a finished piece to the reader! Freewriting gets your neurons firing; it takes a lot more to get them wiring.)
Your emotional state: Feeling anxious and stressed? While some of the research is not definitive, writing is used a lot in therapy and can help anyone de-stress. Here’s the kicker though, try to write about the positives of the negative experience: what you learnt. Or write about your negative experience in the third person, as though it happened to someone else.
Want to be the saviour, navigator, disrupter, or interrupter in the new, post-COVID world of B2B IT? You can’t just talk a good game; you have to know how to access the full scope of your creativity and analytical reasoning. And the best way to tap into the amazing power of your brain is through writing practise.
Do you have an inkling of a possibly good idea? Check your thinking by writing a six-page narrative memo to yourself. Read through it slowly. If you’re not an ego-maniac, you’ll poke holes in it, so keep writing and editing. Eventually, a pure seed of an idea will form itself on the page. Test it with others and continue writing until the seed sprouts, grows and comes into full bloom. It might not be perfect, but it might just be brilliant.
Quotes I’m thinking About
From the desk of David Perell:
“Writing shows you how little you know about topics you thought you were an expert on.”
“If you can’t communicate an idea clearly, you haven’t written about it enough.”
“Easy reading is hard writing.”
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