I read an interesting article in the Guardian at the weekend, in which Oliver Burkeman considered psychologist Steven Pinker’s book “The sense of style”.
Athough this mightn’t seem relevant initially (it is a book about writing styles rather than KM) it has some interesting things to say about the nature of imparting information and knowledge to readers through the written word.
Pinker points out that communicating through writing is “cognitively unnatural”, unused until very recently, with no scope for reading body language or facial expressions and no opportunity for either party to ask for clarification (or indeed assess the areas of joint expertise which can be skipped so they can focus on the true issues).
In the light of this, Pinker suggests that the most effective way to write is to take a “joint attention” approach and write as if you are there to help the reader discern something that they too can see, once you’ve helped them to look in the right place. Instead of taking the traditional approach (thinking about “the audience” and writing as a performance or to ram information into someone else’s brain) writing should be thought of as a side-by-side process, with reader and writer scanning a landscape together.
I found this article a helpful reminder of:
- the need for organisations to respect our centuries-old methods of communication and invest more in face-to-face forms of knowledge-transfer; and
- the need for organisations which have to rely on written documents within KM databases, to invest in training their employees in the writing skills which are most effective for this purpose (as well as the skills needed for writing effective contracts or court documents).
Read the original Oliver Burkeman article here.
For training and learning services, see TKB’s website here.
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