Not so long ago, futurists were telling us that we’d all need to find new ways to fill the hours of extra leisure time created by labour-saving technologies. Like flying cars, robot maids and jet packs, these starry-eyed predictions now seem laughably wide off the mark. Study after study tells us that we’ve never been busier.
In less than a decade we’ve gone from not knowing enough to being immersed in a ‘data deluge’ of information. As Mitch Kapor (inventor of the Lotus computer language) put it,
“Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant”.
We are overwhelmed. We lack the time and mental bandwidth to decipher what we want and need. Communicating has never been more challenging. As aspiring Influencers
we have to adapt. In a world that’s stopped listening being brief is as important as being brilliant.
Say less to say more
So none of us has any time (except my cats, who luxuriate in a parallel universe!). This has created a new business imperative. We need to communicate with ruthless efficiency. We need to be short (but not lose meaning). We need to smarten it down. I call this the art of ‘simplexity’. Like most simple things – it’s hard to achieve.
In his suitably pithy white paper, ‘The Brevity Mandate’
, communications expert Joe McCormack lists the 7 sins of Brevity. In the spirit of the topic, I’ve shortened this to 5.
McCormack’s 5 ‘Sins of Brevity’
We hide behind meaningless words and don’t have the guts to be clear and take a stand. We wrap our message with mounds of jargon and business buzzwords.
We are disrespectful of other people’s time. When they talk to us, we’re impatient, but when we have the floor, time seems to stand still.
3. Comfort breeds sloppiness
We get loose with words with our closest collaborators. Familiarity leads to contempt - and lack of brevity. Our double standard means we’re succinct with important people, yet long-winded with partners.
We choose to think out loud when it is still not clear to you what we’re thinking. When ideas start germinating, they’ll likely be illogical and out of order.
We firmly believe that there are some things that are too complicated to be simplified - even though the world values simplicity. We opt to over explain than to boil down an idea.
As you can see, Joe’s a pretty direct guy! Whilst I’d soften the language a tad, his points are well made. I know I wrestle with a few of them myself. Here are some reasons why.
1. We’ve been educated that more is better (think exam word counts, long meetings, 45 minute speaking slots).
2. We often measure inputs rather than outputs.
3. We default to selling time, not value.
The first step is in our head
The high-performance leaders and entrepreneurs I work with, ‘get’ the principles of brevity. They use them to get more done and leverage the value of their output.
Mastering brevity starts with shifting our mindset. We must break out of our own well-worn personal and corporate habits. Once we’ve done this, learning the techniques is relatively easy. That said, we need to make sure we explain the new approach to our world so it is not misconstrued as rudeness.
Be brilliant, effective and home for supper!
So have a go. Be brief. Cut the puff.
Ruthlessly edit to get to the essence of what you have to say. It might just be the key to creating commercial success AND enjoying that much-promised (but seldom seen) leisure time.