The Amazon 6-Pager: Why Writing Still Matters in Business
When people began scribbling on rocks and clay over 30,000 years ago, it had a drastic impact on human societies. The introduction of written communication allowed humans to not only document spoken words, but appreciate them. For the first time, people were conveying ideas in a logical, systematic – even enjoyable – way.
In his book The Information, James Gleick delves into the origins of written language. He explains that before writing existed, spoken words lacked the organization that allowed for logical reasoning. Although you now have plenty of other options for getting your point across – from data sets, to Skype chats, to number-crunching algorithms – none of them pack the one-two punch of logic and context better than writing does.
But what exactly makes writing so powerful? Let’s take a look at the most basic form of reasoning through writing: the syllogism. This is a form of logical argument in which a conclusion is derived from two premises. Here’s an example:
Pretty easy to follow, right? As you look at each of the premises, you can compare them with one another visually and arrive at a conclusion. Your brain makes a logical connection from the text, which would be harder to do if you were just listening to words.
If you examine the works of a different Homer, the ancient Greek poet, you’ll see that his poems don’t contain a single syllogism. That’s because they were composed and performed orally, and it wasn’t until 500-600 BCE that they were put to paper. Through writing, Homer’s seemingly abstract concepts and loose associations were finally structured in a logical, rational order, imbuing them with deeper meaning.
So, now that you’re armed with knowledge that writing is power, think about the role that writing currently plays in your workplace. Does the logical syllogism work its magic to convey new ideas in engaging memos and meaningful stories? Or is everything just a numbers game?
Writing as a workplace tool
In The Everything Store, Brad Stone explains how Amazon founder Jeff Bezos utilizes the enduring power of words in his daily business strategies.
Read more about the best ways to convey ideas in James Gleick’s The Information, or go to town on the 13 minute summary in blinks. You can also grab more key insights about Amazon in Brad Stone’s The Everything Store or in the book summary.