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Steven Sinofsky
1/ “Writing is thinking” is my favorite saying in “how to work” in a company. It is very interesting to dive into this a bit because I often get so much pushback, especially from startups and/or those focused on agility.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
Writing is super hard. It takes more time to write than it does to talk. It also takes more time to write a page of text than a single slide. Let’s look at one example, the paragraph on handstands from Jeff Bezos’ annual letter.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
I made a slide in about 5 minutes that simulates what it would be like if I had this story in my head before a meeting (Note: I continue to live developing a perfect handstand). This is typically what you’d see in a team meeting on this topic.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
We can see how much is lost. Think of this as a team trying to join in this lesson. Think about trying to share this lesson multiple times (management is repetition). Think about a new team member or partner who only has this slide. (Internet please do not fix my slide!)
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
Two real challenges in not writing this down. First, all the details are lost…forever. There’s no shared corporate history of why/how. Second, people can make up details to fill in bullet points. What came before (high standards)? How did that conclusion get reached?
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
The act of writing, forces the author to think through all the details and steps required to share the lesson. It avoids what happens in business all the time which is “I just know” or “experience” and brings along the team and other job functions on thinking.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
Execution is in a constant state of “diverging” as more expertise deals with more details that fewer people understand. The act of writing forces a team of experts to share the details of goals—not just the what, but the why, what else was considered, the history, context.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
Agility does not prevent or discourage writing. It is just that agility drives a view that “now is always better” and if that’s the high order bit, the time-consuming act of writing 500-5000 words feels “slow”. Writing is in fact a waterfall approach (write, share, edit, write…)
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
But what is missing from that logic is that the process of writing and sharing thoughts is clarifying AND collaborating itself. Execution actually speeds up when you spend the up front time to write.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
Writing is more inclusive. It is easier to contribute, doesn’t reward bullies and bullshitters, and allows for contemplation. One note: for ESL, writing can be easier than speaking for many, but also sometimes difficult. Provide background assistance, avoid criticizing form.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
So please, write. Writing is thinking. PS: As Jeff mentioned, yes you can write less than great. PPS: Yes, just because you write doesn’t mean it will work. And yes, not writing doesn’t mean it will fail. Business is a social science. Anything can happen.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
PS/ No surprise, I know all the PowerPoint jokes (also real studies). Not against the format *at all*. Here’s the Gettysburg address in PowerPoint. (feel free to add the marriage proposal, the breakup, the Space Shuttle story, or anything from Tufte).
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
PPS/ Why don’t people write? Turns out writing is really sticking your neck out. Those details, facts, assumptions may be “rope” to hang you. So writing is culture. Everyone takes risks in writing. So don’t weaponize writing as a team by using it against ideas that didn’t work.
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Joseph Philleo Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
This is a bad comparison. Bezos says writing good six page memos requires weeks. This took you five minutes -- of course it conveys information less well! Your expectations/beliefs on how long it takes to write create good PPs do not align w/ reality.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @PhilleoJ
It is the perfect comparison. No one spends weeks on a slide. That's why people like slides. And if they do it is on formatting/animations, images, and deleting even more words.
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Jean-Louis Gassée Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
Terrific thread, no surprise coming from . I started working on a Monday Note on the same theme… No longer sure I ought to. We’ll see.
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @gassee
You are such a devoted practitioner. So wonderful to contribute to all of our Monday mornings!
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Greg Galant Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi
Wonder how many people were scared off from writing memos due to Jerry Maguire
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Steven Sinofsky Apr 19
Replying to @gregory
The memo!
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Callie Neylan Apr 19
Replying to @stevesi @bradweed
I love this thread. Thanks for sharing it. was just reminiscing to me about your work at Microsoft today.
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