Brevity

Briefly - Matt Gemmell

My guidelines for Briefly pieces are that they should be 100-200 words, and should take most people less than a minute to read. I’ve also given them a slightly distinct visual style, which you can see on the web, to add a little bit of weight to what might otherwise look truncated.

About 100,000 years ago, I was the Operations Director for one of the UK's largest corporations. Locked, one day, in a discussion with the Board about how much time we all wasted reading long and convoluted papers for each meeting. The CEO suddenly fixed me with his famous gaze that was always a precursor to an edict. 'From now on', he opined, 'I want you to always ensure that no paper prepared by anyone in this organisation is ever longer than 3 pages of A4, including it's executive summary.'

This was an unwelcome addition to my do to list. But, foolishly, I thought, far from the most onerous (for example, I still had to find half a billion dollars of cost savings from the following years expenditure budget.)

I was wrong.

I was to learn that this was the most difficult mountain to climb. I tried to educate the organisation in the learnings of Edward De Bono Simplicity: Edward de Bono

I rejected 100's of papers. I fought, I cajoled, I taught and I controlled. But, I ultimately conceded the wisdom of the 17th century philosopher John Locke, in his famous work, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”

I will not deny, but possibly it might be reduced to a narrower Compass than it is; and that some Parts of it might be contracted: The way it has been writ in, by Catches, and many long Intervals of Interruption, being apt to cause some Repetitions. But to confess the Truth, I am now too lazy, or too busy to make it shorter.

I have subsequently, in the context of time being our most precious resource, come to respect the skill of precise, concise, beautifully-bullseye-correct brevity as an attribute to be revered.