By Leah Scampoli
At our June meeting, presenters Dee and Pamela gave a great presentation about information delivery in the age of interaction. Besides sharing some useful and thought-provoking information, the presentation included some terrific graphics. One slide of the Dos Equis Guy giving advice (Google “I don’t always test my code” for a laugh) got a great response. But, it was the slide of various Facebook mantras, for lack of a better word, that got me thinking. Although written more for programming, I thought it was interesting to consider how those ideas bleed into technical communication.
Done is Better Than Perfect
I’ve been working in the highly regulated financial and biotech industries for a while. So, right off the bat, I wouldn’t say that non-perfection has ever been a goal. In fact, it may be the opposite: Perfect is Better Than Done. When safety or privacy is at stake, double checking the documentation that last time (even if you’re down to the wire) has always served me well. It’s hard to be the person to say “hold up, let’s think this through” when everyone wants to get something out the door. But, having a level head in chaotic environment is just what is needed sometimes.
Although more than slightly pretentious, I once proudly carried a bag with “Someone still cares about quality” on it. I think that I take pride in being the person on the team who wants a perfect result more than a quick one. As we live in the real world, that’s easier said (or screen printed on a bag) than done. Nevertheless, I still strive to keep that in mind, and I always appreciate it when I work with a kindred spirit.
What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid
I think that this question has resonated with a lot of people outside of their career. In fact, it’s taken up a life of it’s own for a campaign for young women. But, I think it’s also a valuable question to ask at work. By thinking outside of your comfort zone or usual company box, it makes you question more often and with less timidity. I think one of the most cringe-inducing phrases is “well, that’s how we’ve always done it.” Yes, consistency is important, especially in documentation, but the foolish sort is also the hobgoblin of little minds, according to the good man Emerson. I’ve found that freeing myself of what the department did in the past often leads to more efficient and effective processes and output.
To look at it another way, the idea of not being afraid of making mistakes is a powerful thought when you’re stuck in the how-do-I-start-this-document mud. I recently went to the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit at the De Young. There, amongst the art he created during his time in Berkeley, was his “Notes to Myself on Beginning a Painting.” The one that resonated most with me and the one I think connects to the saying was “Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.” It makes me think of what I do when I am faced with a blank page and that horrible blinking cursor: I take a breath and start writing, unafraid. Luckily for us writers, there’s a delete button.
So, what do you think? Are these mantras applicable in our tech comm world. Do you have any of your own? Contact us through email, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySTC to share.