Creating a writing culture

Why Amazon ditched the PowerPoint and why all companies should do the same

One of Jeff Bezos’ best decision was to ditch the PowerPoint. Here is his rationale expressed in a perfectly written email:

memo

Instead of presentations, all Amazon execs are asked to write a 2 to 6 page memo for any idea of pitch they have. Meetings start with everyone sitting quietly in a room and individually reading the memo. This is followed by people submitting questions and then an open discussion in general.

The idea is simple enough. And yet, it is extremely powerful. Good narrative forces the writer to think. And more importantly, it forces the reader to think. PowerPoint slides often use graphics to gloss over the full context. The context might be fully drawn out in the mind of the presenter. However, listening is a passive exercise. People rarely pay full attention and lose out on the full meaning. Here is a senior Amazon executive explaining their choice around the memo-style meetings a bit further:

Jeff Bezos is a brilliant writer himself. And yet, he wasn’t a writing major in college. He has deliberately honed this skill via 3 decades of practice at work. And along the way he has forced many others to become much better writers.

New hires at Amazon have spoken about how getting used to its writing culture is a bit difficult at first. As a result, Amazon dedicates a portion of the new hire training to helping individuals improve as writers. Here is a brilliant graphic from one such induction on the key principles on ‘How to Write like an Amazonian’:

Image

The modern day executive’s job is one largely of external and internal communication. This involves sending 50+ emails a day, writing memos and fleshing out thoughts for oral communication.

As someone who has just started to write, I have to admit it is one of the best forcing function for one’s thoughts. It is easy to have the perfect idea when it is just a monologue in your own head. Putting it down on paper allows you to see the logical inconsistencies. And helps eliminate the crappy ideas.

While there is a lot of material on good writing, those looking to get started should start with Scott Adams’ super simple advice. Good luck!

(Copied below is the Scott’s full essay if you don’t want to click out)


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