I was listening to a podcast conversation between a couple of people teaching at the university level, and they talked about teaching students how to communicate their ideas clearly. To give the “elevator pitch”–a consise description of what they were doing in the time it would take for a typical elevator ride in a high-rise.
This thought line intertwines with a thread on the Automation World group on LinkedIn where someone asked about what second language to learn (assuming English as the first, I guess). John Berra, retired CEO of Emerson Process Management, responded that first of all you should be able to communicate clearly in your first language.
When I was first out of college and working in manuacturing, I discovered that I had “engineers’ communication disease.” That is, in school I learned to work the formula, arrive at the correct answer, and get rewarded. In business, you may have worked the formula and arrived at the correct answer–except no on believes you! You have to learn to “sell” your ideas to unbelievers.
This problem was one of my biggest challenges when I had a management role supervising application engineers. They would quote a new machine and sell it to the customer (sometimes), but the hardest sales job was internally to the design team. I just couldn’t get them to communicate their ideas clearly enough that another (skeptical) engineer could “get it.”
So, take some time to polish those communication skills–then learn Mandarin.
As you know, I've devoted a good part of my almost embarrassingly long career to helping engineers express themselves clearly. Here's my quick advice for engineers who want to write better:
1. determine the main points you want to communicate before you start writing
2. organize your thoughts under subheads
3. make sure the thoughts flow logically
4. avoid using words that sound good, but don't really add value
5. avoid using the passive voice ("It is believed…") whenever possible
Well, Paul, I'm not sure about embarrassingly, but you certainly helped people. Good thoughts. Thanks.