How To Write Short, By Roy Peter Clark

There’s a lot to say about saying things concisely. More than I would have guessed. How To Write Short by Roy Peter Clark explores the art of short writing in a wide variety of forms, many of which have been around for a long, long time (tombstones, for instance). So, while sharpening one’s writing skill for today’s abbreviated attention spans and new digital formats is worthy, it is also interesting to consider the many other applications for good short writing. And the long history of good short writing. Indeed, Clark’s premise cleverly reverses the old adage that “a picture is … Read more

A Better Response

We can see more, if we’re patient. Resisting the urge to react and respond immediately to everything often leads to better results. A little patience can draw in more information. A little patience can allow for greater reflection. A little patience can help to formulate a better plan. The term “knee-jerk reaction” has a negative connotation. Yet, we’re often aspiring to just that at nearly every turn. To react without much thought. To engage without much reflection. To dismiss an item as quickly as it appeared. That can be fun, but it’s rarely productive. And sometimes it’s harmful. Inserting a … Read more

Preparing to lead

Frequently, we think of leadership as a heat of the moment endeavor. A situation has developed to a point where decisiveness is needed. A clear need for action exists. It may be a crisis, or it may be an opportunity. Leadership is called for, and great leaders rise to the challenge. These moments crystalize the story of leadership. And while they are authentic, they are incomplete. The moments are built upon a foundation established gradually over time. Good leaders understand this and go about that foundation building very intentionally. This deliberate effort is not at all glamorous. Progress is slow. … Read more

Conferring at the conference

Don’t go to listen. Go to engage. Sure, you’re interested to hear great speakers who cover interesting topics. A well-honed talk delivered by a charismatic speaker can imbue you with knowledge and inspiration. And if it’s that good, it’s probably also entertaining. Many speakers won’t hit that high water mark, but even so you’ll likely get something from what they have to say. Something you can take back home with you and use in some way. Something that makes you a little bit better. That’s why you go to the conference. Not just to get away, to break the routine. … Read more

Make your job bigger

The key to getting ahead is doing more. More than is expected. More than you think you can do. More than you think you should do. Pushing at boundaries to make your job bigger, and yourself bigger as you grow into the expanding role. Waiting to be asked or simply working only to the letter of your job description is wasting your time. You can make bigger contributions, starting today. And you should. For selfish reasons, if none other. Help yourself You deserve to be recognized for the good work that you do, and for the great work that you’re … Read more

Learn to summarize

IT professionals know a lot of details. We understand complexity. We appreciate nuance. We see lots of variables. We live in a world of changing dynamics. The challenge in communications, however, is all about simplicity. Deciding which details are important in the context of a particular discussion, presentation, or report is essential. And sadly for those of us who appreciate the wonder and possibilities of the world of detail, most details are unimportant to clear communication. Rather, we’ve got to get to the gist of the matter. And then not cloud the picture. We’ve got to have the ability to … Read more

A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young

Written in 1939 by an accomplished ad-man of the early 20th century, A Technique for Producing Ideas survives the test of time because it taps into insights we know intuitively but find difficult to articulate, understand, and therefore, to fully leverage to our advantage. We’re all in search of ideas, of new and innovative breakthroughs for the myriad of challenges before us. An in that search, we’ve experienced the process that Young describes, which gives weight to the simple but profound structure he outlines. Granted, this is a thin book. Perhaps a “Who Moved My Cheese” of it’s day. But a … Read more

Strategy starts with a goal

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to plan the best route. A goal is a prerequisite to strategy. Too often we delve into solutions at the outset of technology project discussions or any sort of planning exercise. We rush into this because the goal seems clear and obvious. But when you take some time to define and discuss the goal, lots of questions arise. When initially stated, most goals are vague. It’s great to have a good high-level vision of the future and a general ambition toward something lofty. But good goals are specific and concrete. They … Read more

Clear and precise communication

We always want to be clear. Sometimes we want to be precise. When we’re discussing low-level, concrete issues like technical specifications, we need to be precise. Most of the time, though, we need to read between the lines. We need to understand what’s not being said explicitly, what’s not being well-articulated, what’s motivating someone to try and shape an outcome. Illogical and irrational The world is not a logical place and it’s not filled with rational people. This is the major flaw in economic theory, and it can be a hurdle in how technical people approach problem solving. We like … Read more