Business Writing is the Bane of Intelligence, Insight and Human Progress

In 2001 when I was in the first year of my undergraduate degree, I wanted to be a physicist or a computer programmer. I enrolled in the Faculty of Science. Unfortunately during this time, I was undergoing a shit storm of financial and personal crises the result of which I decided I needed money, lots of it and as soon as possible after graduation. So, physics was out.

I could’ve been a computer programmer except I hated programming. Chalk this up to my alma mater’s desire to teach me an obscure programming language, Scheme, described by Wikipedia as:

Its compactness and elegance have made it popular with educators, language designers, programmers, implementors, and hobbyists. The language’s diverse appeal is seen as a strong point, though the consequently wide divergence between implementations is seen as one of the language’s weak points.

Translation: It has zero real-world application and Apple is not going to hire you. Two years after I left the faculty, the computer sciences program changed with more emphasis on C++ and Java (or so I’ve been told). My point being that Scheme has deprived the universe of Zuuko, the next <insert computer programming icon of your choice here. Pick from Steve Jobs, Mike Lazaridis, Mark Zukerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, or reputable legend of your choice. NOTE: Bill Gates has not been an option since the end of the last millenium>.

So this obviously left banking, which meant a BCOM degree and my continual contact with business writing, much to my annoyance. Since banking and into my current employment of managing hundreds of bajillions, I frequently come into close contact with the following examples of writing:

The geometry of sustained advantage is changing—permanently, irreversibly, and with profound consequences for every organization that wishes to grow, endure and make a difference. This paper outlines the four key global discontinuities that are driving this change, identifies the most significant ways in which a new geometry of advantage is becoming manifest, and advocates several critical sets of actionable and immediate responses.

That was the executive summary I think. One of the “four key global discontinuities” is the Internet I think; its not exactly clear from the following description:

Connective Technologies opening opportunities for innovation and enabling new, valuable webs of co-creation with customers, suppliers, partners and competitors

The answer to your question is an emphatic, “Yes! My soul does in fact die a little each time.”

I’m not sure what gleam of value my employer sees in this report (rest assured that the rest of it was written with equal vapidity). Because of the author’s writing style, I’m convinced that instead of enlightening, he obscures the point. This writing is as equally useless as Scheme and more so perhaps because Scheme could ultimately be used as a teaching tool. Business writing is scrubbed clean of opinion, precision, argument, debate, elegance, insight, and, as a direct result of these missing elements and ultimately most glaringly, value. Show me a man who understands the value in business writing, and I will show you a fool incapable of good judgment, good taste and good sense (or a consultant for McKinsey).

NOTE: The excerpts above are taken from a report title “Taking Advantage of Tumultuous Times” by Monitor.

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One Response to Business Writing is the Bane of Intelligence, Insight and Human Progress

  1. zolltan says:

    Harness the synergies!

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