While taking a break from planning my English class (which starts tomorrow), I read this New York Times Corner Office interview with Jason Fried of Basecamp. I have long been a fan of Fried’s thinking and leadership style, and today he gave me a great assist. What could be a better introduction to an English class than his answer to a question about how his company hires?
Our top hiring criteria — in addition to having the skills to do the job — is, are you a great writer? You have to be a great writer to work here, in every single position, because the majority of our communication is written, primarily because a lot of us work remotely but also because writing is quieter. And we like long-form writing where people really think through an idea and present it.
I also love his rejection of the chat services upon which so many organizations have come to rely:
This is one of the reasons I don’t like chat services. When companies start thinking one line at a time and everyone’s rushed and you have to get your conversation in before it scrolls off the screen, I think it’s a terrible, frantic way to work, and people are burning out because of it.
To be clear, I don’t only love what these quotations say about the importance of writing; I also love the way they demonstrate thinking that legitimately cuts against the grain. In a time when communications professionals are encouraging us to write fewer words and use more images, Fried asks his employees to use “long-form” writing. And he also has the insight to think through the human cost (in this case, burnout) of tools that were supposed to make work easier. It’s important to learn to write well; it’s also important to keep an eye on the downside of relying on strengths and ease.