Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
January 30, 2009
A Bullet Point (Or
Three) Through the Heart of Business
One of my employees recently suggested I take a different approach to
writing a client memo. This particular client, I was informed, was part
of a growing trend of business people preferring to have information
presented to them in bullet points – especially when the bullet points
come in groups of three.
“Groupings of three bullet points are easy for a busy business person to
digest,” he explained.
That may very well be, but what if I have seven points to make? Doesn’t
the conscientious business leader want to get all the relevant
information being offered? Or is he or she only interested in three bits
at a time – not matter how important the other four may be?
I’m not sure which is more ridiculous, this or the currently popular
trend of business people preferring “pretty pictures” as opposed to
words. But I thought I’d give it a try. Let’s just consider it a journey
you know what I sometimes think about other CEOs?
They all try to act
like each other.
They claim to be
leaders, but they are actually the biggest bunch of lemmings you
will ever see, which is why they all keep telling people to give
them information in bullet points of three.
the way, the metaphor in which we compare this information delivery
method to food (digestion, etc.) is also interesting, because one way
you could look at it is as a metaphor for your three square meals a day:
But I think of it more like this: How many primary elements does the
signature part of a meal have? Three, right? Take your typical
See? Let’s say you’re having a pasta dish. You’re eating:
Now you may be objecting at this point that I could and should have made
meat and vegetables two separate bullet points, thus creating an
impermissible set of four. You’re wrong. Why?
I decide how much
information should go in each of my bullet points.
delicious, I’m having some tonight, it will have both meat and
vegetables and Yo-Yo Ma was faking to recorded music at President
I decide how much
information should go in each of my bullet points, and whether it’s
OK to repeat them in the same set.
seems to me that the CEO who prefers to receive information in this way
is being lazy intellectually. I’ve been to the Economic Club meetings
where speakers like Thomas Friedman stand up there and talk in
three-part sets of bullet points, and the briefcase brigades in the
crowd coo over their rubber chicken and garnished mashed potatoes: “How
profound! How wise!”
What you don’t realize is:
from his butt the first three random thoughts he could manufacture.
He put bullet
points in front of them; and
You thought it was
This is not brilliance. This is you falling for form over substance. I
could do this too. I could go around giving speeches in which I claim:
The world is moving
to the future.
We’re all going to
have to adapt.
Those who fail will
And you would:
Pay me $100,000 to
come back and speak again.
© 2009 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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