The Culture of Writing Things Down


The Culture of Writing Things Down Photo

I dislike bureaucracy and over process, but I love writing things down.

Whether it is a product specification, job opening, marketing plan, or content strategy, putting things on paper creates clarity and saves time.

When you have a thought that you want to share and get feedback on write it down.

“When you write things down, you also think through things.”

Raw thoughts, and ideas in our heads are never as polished and solid as written down thoughts. This is because much like sculpture gives feedback to its creator, a written document talks back to you as you write it down.

“Writing creates a basic feedback loop. Before getting feedback from other people you can literally get feedback from yourself.”

Writing allows you to refine your idea before you share it with others. You save time in two ways. First, you save yourself time because you actually think the idea through, and polish it before executing it.

Secondly, and more importantly, you save your team’s time. Instead of spending time discussing a half baked idea, you share your thoughts as a simple 1-page document. Now your team can review it asynchronously. They can comment and tell you what they like and don’t like. You can have a back and forth feedback in the document, and then if and when needed get together to discuss the idea face-to-face.

Amazon is one of the most efficient and iconic companies of our generation. From the very early days Jeff Bezos has created an unusual practice for the executive committee. Every single strategic idea has to be written down as a brief memo. During the first 20 mins of the executive session the group is sitting quietly and reading the memo before talking about it.

This process at Amazon ensures two things – first, every single idea, before it is presented to the group, is thought through and written down. Secondly, Bezos knew that executives are busy and wouldn’t always have the time to read the memo before the meeting, so he booked extra 20 minutes on the calendar just for reading.

“Bezos has created the culture of writing things down.”

This culture is also a culture of thoughtfulness, respect, bothering to read and think things through.

We live in the world that is moving faster and faster literally every day.

“We pay less attention to everything, including each other and our own thoughts.”

Startups and founders tend to move even faster, and in this rush we often forget to think things through, to write things down, to take time to hear and understand each other.

Pause and take a bit of time to write things down, and to think things through.

Create a culture of thoughtfulness, respect and writing things down in your startup.

Your products, your marketing plans, your content strategy, your financial models and your company over all will be better off.




Reprinted by permission

Image credit: CC by Robbio Dobbio

About the author: Alex Iskold

Alex Iskold is the Managing Director of Techstars in New York City.

Previously Alex was Founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by i.tv),  founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM), and Chief Architect DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO).

Alex routinely writes about entrepreneurship and startups at Alex Iskold.

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