In this #mtpcon London talk, Lindsey Jayne, former VP Product at Monzo, discusses the importance of writing clearly in order to make better decisions and diversify thinking.
- There is too much noise in our working lives - we are bombarded by words and thoughts which are difficult to understand
- By being clearer in our writing we can bring more people with us and expose bad ideas before they progress too far
- If we combine this with sharing our thoughts early and often, we will collaborate more often and more effectively
Why Clarity Matters
Lindsey begins by explaining that clear statements reduce things down to the most important information. That means you need less brainpower to understand what’s being said.
Unfortunately, many organisations struggle to create clarity by building too much noise into their conversations. For example, while objectives, OKRs, and visions can all be valuable they often reduce understanding rather than improve it. In addition, they cause people to become focused on these, rather than building value for their organisations and users.
The first step to resolving this problem, Lindsey tells us, is to take a position and be memorable. This will help your communication to cut through the noise and be remembered.
You should also think about writing, she says. It's something we spend a huge amount of our lives doing, but most people don’t practise writing or try to improve their writing skills.
You can’t hide a bad idea in clear and simple writing because, when you get things down on paper, ideas and statements that don’t hold together will fall apart for all to see. So, not only will writing save you and your audience time, it will help you to promote better ideas.
Here are some ways you can make your writing clearer:
- Get your thoughts together in a coherent structure
- Use plain words, remove jargon and acronyms
- Gleefully obliterate corporate-speak
Brevity is hard, but it is worthwhile. By spending time reducing your word count you will make it easier for your audience to understand your message.
How can you do this?
- Remove every word or phrase not essential
- Use short sentences and strong verbs
- Use the active voice
Lindsey shares some examples of great product strategies using these principles:
- Does it make the car go faster? Williams Racing
- 1,000 songs in your pocket, any task in three clicks. Apple’s original brief for the iPod
Share Early and Often
Lindsey talks about teams, and observes that no team works better in isolation. We know how much easier it is to show someone a product than to tell them about it, she says, and therefore transparency of decision making and processes can be transformational.
This is because it:
- Builds trust
- Amplifies ideas
- Helps to identify problems early
- Shortens feedback cycles
- Invites unexpected expertise
Good writing combined with transparency means you can get a true reaction on the substance of the conversation. It can also include more people so that we get that vital diversity of thought in our decisions.
Lindsey's key takeaways - do the hard work to communicate clearly, share early and often and you will be better placed to make braver and better decisions.