The Value of Writing

Anyone who has been around me has probably seen me share a Dropbox Paper link or use a document to lead a meeting/converation (those occasionally are what ended up posted here). Why do I do this?

It’s driven by three people I greatly admire: Andy Grove, Ben Horowitz, and Jeff Bezos but boils down to:

  1. Writing forces clarity of thinking.
  2. Communication is a skill that you only get better with with practice - particularly with how much of our communication now a days is written (email, Slack, etc.).
  3. It’s really hard to be fake not knowing what you’re talking about or for there to be any ambiguity in what you mean. A written document can stand on its own without you. A PowerPoint (usually) cannot.

Andy Grove

As they are written and formulated, the author is forced to be more precise than he might be verbally. Hence their value stems from the discipline and the thinking the writer is forced to impose upon himself as he identifies and deals with trouble spots in his presentation. Reports are more a medium of self-discipline than a way to communicate information. Writing the report is important; reading it often is not.

Source: High Output Management

Ben Horowitz

Good product managers communicate crisply to engineering in writing as well as verbally. Good product managers don’t give direction informally. Good product managers gather information informally.

Source: Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager

Good product managers take written positions on important issues (competitive silver bullets, tough architectural choices, tough product decisions, markets to attack or yield). Bad product managers voice their opinion verbally and lament that the “powers that be” won’t let it happen.

Source: Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager

Jeff Bezos

There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.


But some form of regular writing is one of the best ways to give yourself time for reflection and analysis. It could be any kind of writing. Consider Jeff Bezos’s approach to meetings. Whoever runs the meeting writes a memo no longer than six pages about the issue at hand. Then, for the first 15 to 30 minutes of the meeting, the group reads it. The rest of the meeting is spent discussing it. No PowerPoint allowed. Brilliant.

Source: Brad Feld talking about Jeff Bezos