When is writing useful in business?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

There are good thoughts but I still have to disagree with them, to an extent. Tim Casasola writes:

In remote work, we communicate primarily through writing. We send messages in Slack. We document projects in Notion. We send meeting invites with a written description of the purpose. We’re writing all the time.

Many organizations are working from home at the moment. Thus, writing is even more important.

Writing invites other perspectives.

Writing forces people to think clearly. I’m sure this question has confronted you at least once when drafting a presentation: “What is it that I actually want to say?”

While writing forces people to think clearly, writing also forces teams to think clearly. In my experience, having a clearly written thing makes it easy for folks to collaborate with me. This is because people naturally enjoy poking holes in arguments, adding points that were missed, or mentioning any risks that weren’t taken into account. I’ve found it helpful to use this human tendency to my advantage. Extra opinions and poked holes are hard to surface if you didn’t write something in the first place.

When I was 12 years old I went to a summer camp and I made many friends. Afterwards, back home, I wrote to those friends. Some teens keep journals, but I couldn’t, because I needed an audience, even if that audience was just a single person. By the time I was in my late teens the habit of understanding my life by writing a letter to a friend was well established. My adulthood and my career were shaped by this. When I became a manager, I leaned on email much more than other managers, until I learned that most people hated email and preferred verbal communication, at which point I had to adjust my style.

The biggest surprise I faced in the business world was the lack of any relationship between education and joy in writing. I’ve run into waitresses who never sought an advanced education but they keep a journal and they can only organize their thoughts by writing their thoughts down. And yet I’ve worked with MBAs (from the Harvard Business School and the UVA Darden school) who got top grades and yet they hate writing it and consider it a painful chore. They can do it to get a grade, but they don’t enjoy it. Crucially, they assume other people don’t enjoy it, so if you write something they will be suspicious about why you wrote it. Did you you write to get them in trouble? Why would you do something so painful and difficult as writing, unless you had a malevolent intent? I’ve learned that with some people, if I’d like to raise questions, it is best to talk to them about those problems, because they become quickly hostile if I put my doubts into writing.

My writing ability is one of my great strengths so for personal reasons I wish business culture was more oriented towards writing. However, it is necessary to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the people we work with, and it is important to remember that relatively few people take real joy in writing.

Having said all that, I agree with Tim Casasola that writing something is often an act of clarity, just like writing a math equation can offer clarity about whether an assumed relationship (in a data set) actually exists. And some of the people I’ve worked with have avoided writing things down exactly because their own thoughts were foggy, yet they did not want to be exposed for contradictory beliefs. And occasionally, I’ve learned it can be useful to demand that things get put in writing, so we can surface what assumptions are contradictory or unclear. However in this, as with all human affairs, I’d advise all of you to remember that it is important to pick your battles carefully. Source