T HE PANDEMIC has given a big shove to all forms of digital communication. Video-conferencing platforms have become verbs. Venture capitalists make their bets after watching virtual pitches. Products like Loom and mmhmm help workers send pre-recorded video messages to their colleagues. More than a third of Slack users each week are now “huddling”—using the product’s new audio feature to talk to each other. And all this is before the metaverse turns everyone into an avatar.
A workplace dominated by time on screens may seem bound to favour newer, faster and more visual ways of transmitting information. But an old form of communication—writing—is also flourishing. And not just dashed-off emails and entries on virtual whiteboards, but slow, time-intensive writing. The strengths of the written word have not been diminished by the pandemic era. In some ways they are ideally suited to it.*
The value of writing is a staple in management thinking. “The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen,” reckoned Lee Iacocca, a quotable titan of the American car industry. Jeff Bezos banned slide decks from meetings of senior Amazon executives back in 2004, in favour of well-structured memos. “PowerPoint-style presentations somehow give permission to gloss over ideas,” he wrote.