✍️How to create a writing culture
Also: 20 techniques for better conversations; How to take smart notes; Advanced tips for every internet tool; Startup cities: Miami; Slow travel on the Euro Night Sprinter | #68
How does remote work change the way companies get things done?
David Perell (Write of Passage) said, “Remote work leads to writing-centric companies instead of speaking-centric ones.” Amazon and Stripe have a heavy writing culture. Amazon is famous for its six-page narratives, and Jeff Bezos is a brilliant writer.
We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.
Here’s how to write like an Amazonian 🚀
The GitLab team handbook is their central repository for how they run the company. Over 2000 pages of text, and as part of their value of being transparent, it’s open-source. Darren Murph, GitLab’s Head of Remote, has talked about the importance of having a Chief Documentarian and writing everything down with remote teams.
Bill Gates was on it in ‘99. New Rules: collaborative culture & digital information flow.
I read all the e-mail that employees send me, and I pass items on to people for action. I find unsolicited mail an incredibly good way to stay aware of the attitudes and issues affecting the many people who work at Microsoft.
Better writing ⟶ Better thinking ⟶ Better communication ⟶ Clear leadership ⟶ Boosts productivity.
Writing democratises ideas and lets teams have their say. It breaks down workplace politics—you’re not relying on verbal accounts, 1:1s or presenteeism to get stuff done. Transparency and good documentation builds trust. Josh Bernoff: “Clear leadership, expressed in writing, creates alignment and boosts productivity.”
How Stripe built a writing culture ✍️
David Perell asked Brie Wolfson, who worked at Stripe for five years and set up Stripe Press to talk to his students about how companies can create a writing culture.
Out of their conversations, she made this stellar guide 🚀
I’ve come to believe that Stripe’s culture of writing is one of the organization’s greatest superpowers. As startup whisperer patio11 puts it, Stripe is a celebration of the written word which happens to be incorporated in the state of Delaware.
Stripe has always treated documentation as a first-class product. People from every corner of the company author blog posts. The company publishes a magazine about building and operating software (Increment) and books about technological and economic progress (Stripe Press).
But what we don’t see is the massive library of content produced in-house for employees. She says that’s where the real magic happens...
This interview digs into the company culture. Go deep and move fast.
One thing that distinguishes Stripe is that it’s an incredibly deep-thinking culture. It’s a written culture really focused on getting to the right answer.
Another thing is a sense of urgency. The company is especially dedicated to moving very, very fast.
Ann Handley is also brilliant on this stuff. How to champion a content-oriented culture—the key to a customer-centric, intuitive, empathic point of view.
We don’t appreciate the work that goes into minute-taking—it’s bloody hard work!
★ Stop Asking Questions: How to lead high impact interviews and learn anything from anyone (Holloway). Lessons from a veteran podcast host with 2000+ episodes on the secrets of deeper conversation. It teaches you how to interview and how to learn. Excerpt here. I can’t get enough of Holloway’s brilliant books!
★ How to take smart notes (Forte Labs). Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says the secret of her career success is down to diligent and reliable notetaking. A simple technique to boost your writing, learning and thinking. Have a listen to Tiago’s interview and Q&A with the author, Sönke Ahren here.
★ Field Notes: Miami (Devon Zuegel). What’s it like to live in Miami, the new tech hub? Writer and Product Director Devon Zuegel on what makes Miami special. The colours! The flowers! Immigrant spirit. These field notes are a bit different from previous cities she’s explored because Miami is her home. I’m listening to Order Without Design, her new podcast about cities.
★ Exotic and sustainable, night trains are coming back to Europe. The ‘Euro Night Sprinter’ map is utopian, but Europe’s rail future could look a lot like it. It’s a proposal by the German Greens, who want a Europe-wide network of sleeper trains. By 2030, it would connect more than 200 cities and places across Europe. Slow, comfortable travel. All aboard! 🙏
★ A Twitter thread from Dickie Bush with advanced tips for every internet tool. Starting with Twitter - 10 advanced features, how to master Google search, Google docs, YouTube rabbit holes, Mac tips and more. One to bookmark and return to when well-caffeinated - there’s a lot to digest here.
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