Jan 8, 2015

5 reasons why you should develop the practice of writing at work

For anyone dealing with knowledge work that requires deeper thinking, analysis, unraveling assumptions and developing solutions, writing is a must-have skill. Whatever be your role - a developer, designer, product manager, marketer, analyst etc, I would highly recommend that you develop writing as a conscious practice. I'll give you 5 reasons why you should invest diligently in this practice.

1) Provides clarity
A vague problem for which I seek solutions becomes more clear if I sit down and write about the problem statement in actual words. It gives great clarity and helps me to think through the problem scenarios in great detail.

2) Gives directions
As I write down the problem statement, I automatically reflect and think through the causes and context. It also helps me to go deeper into various aspects of the problem and the expected outcome. As a result, I have a good "approach" or steps that I need to take to solve the problem. It doesn't have to be detailed paragraphs, it could be a simple workflow diagram on a piece of paper or a whiteboard.

3) Brings vague assumptions to the fore-front
Many times, when we brainstorm as a team or when we decide on a specific solution, there are multiple assumptions that drive our decision making. Writing inculcates the discipline of consciously noting down the assumptions. You might even start to wonder why you had a certain assumption in the first place.

4) Focuses on the problem
As I had written earlier, for any problem at hand, we like to jump at the solution immediately. It would be interesting to read up on research that has been done to check the levels of dopamine when we come across an interesting problem to solve. More often, the process of solving takes away our focus from the problem itself. Writing helps us to structure our thinking where we get a good grip on the problem and then navigate towards possible solutions.

5) Enables effective communication
Having been in the software products space for 10+ years, I can see how a Product Requirements Document (PRD) has undergone significant changes from the bulky 100 pager to a lean 2 pager wiki + wireframe. But the underlying need of communicating effectively with your team still remains the same. Writing helps you to foresee the potential questions that your team, partners or customers might have and can even enable you to convince them on why a certain approach/strategy that you are proposing is important.

Apart from these reasons, the power of written words also increases accountability among the team members. Random hall-way discussions and ideas work but in order to execute them effectively, writing them down in a way that brings clarity to the forefront is a key ingredient to success.

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