Most consider a good vocabulary a proxy for erudition and intelligence. We appreciate the breadth of the English language and enjoy using fancier words instead of basic ones. When you encounter long lines at your local mall food court, you may feel better saying "Preposterous" while doing a derisive hair flip - or is that just me?
But if the point of communication is to relay information, does a fancy vocabulary contribute to its effectiveness? Daniel Kahneman, the author of Thinking Fast and Slow, in one of my favorite excerpts from the book says:
If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, don't use complex language where simpler language will do. My Princeton colleague Danny Oppenheimer refuted a myth prevalent among undergraduates about the vocabulary that professors find most impressive. In an article titled 'Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly', he showed that couching familiar ideas in pretentious language is taken as a sign of poor intelligence and low credibility.
In our previous editions, we've seen that we can learn the importance of having a Commander’s Intent from Dwight Schrute and why renaming your workout plan The David Project can help you get fit faster. Our admiration for the power of language is not new, but today we dive specifically into why taking time to make your message simple and catchy can have long-lasting effects on its retention and implementation.
Businesses often invest time crafting external copy like a campaign slogan or witty ad copy; internal communication deserves the same attention. Here's why.
When I say, "It's still Day 1," most of you will recognize it instantly, even if you don't or haven't worked at Amazon. Jeff Bezos invested significant time encoding Amazon's most important strategies into concise and memorable forms.
Eugene Wei, one of the earliest members of Amazon's finance team, recalls, "Every year I was at Amazon had a theme. These themes were concise and memorable ways to help everyone remember the most important goal of the company that year.
“One year, when our primary goal was to grow our revenue and order volume as quickly as possible to achieve the economies of scale that would capitalize on our high fixed-cost infrastructure investments and put wind into our flywheel, the theme was ‘Get Big Fast Baby.’
“Another time, as we looked out and saw the $1B revenue milestone approaching, one of Jeff's chief concerns was whether our company's processes could scale to handle that volume of orders without breaking. To head off any such stumbles, we set aside an entire year at the company for GOHIO. It stood for ‘Getting our house in order.’”
As a leader, Bezos knew how to tap into the power of rhetoric. He held company-wide contests to come up with the most catchy way to remember their annual themes. "Get Big Fast Baby" was time well spent.
If you want to test how strategically aligned your company is, stop a random person on your floor and ask him what the company's top priority for 2023 is; do you think you'll get an answer? How accurate will it be?
What we’re reading
Eugene Wei writes in depth about his time at Amazon and Bezos’ commitment to creating catchy, memorable goals. The simpler your mantras, the more influence you can have on decisions, even when you’re not in the room. Jpeg your ideas >
Speaking of internal communication, what if we had guides on how to work with people instead of learning the hard way over the first six months of meeting them? Claire Hughes-Johnson, the former Chief Operating Officer at Stripe, wrote a Working With Me Guide and sends it to everyone she works with. It includes details about her management style and communication patterns. This can help set expectations in new working relationships. For example, when I'm stressed or suffering from writer's block, I'll only respond with 'haha' to funny GIFs instead of my usual 'Ahahah.' What would yours look like?
For the ‘thread’worms
In the latest AI experiment to take the internet by storm, Jackson Greathouse Fall gave ChatGPT a budget of $100 and asked it to make as much money as possible from it. By Day 2, the company they created was valued at $25,000 and Jackson issued a formal challenge to get to $100,000 cash on hand as quickly as possible!