Tag Archives: Communication

Language fluency

Ideally, we should judge our professional interactions based on the merits of the arguments one puts forth.

However, a person’s comfort in speaking or writing in a particular language impacts the merits of the argument they put forth in that language. Even if you’ve studied the language, if you’re not fluent, sometimes you just can’t come up with the words to clearly convey your message in that language.

And this negatively influences your counterpart’s perception of you. It’s difficult to distinguish between someone who doesn’t know and someone who has difficulty communicating what they know.

As a result, being fluent in a language is a big asset to achieving professional success in a country where business is done in that language. The more communication a particular role requires, the greater the value of this asset.

The user/customer journey

When you hear a new startup pitch for the first time, it’s often hard to wrap your head around how the startup works. As you’re trying to do so, in a good willed attempt to help you understand, many founders begin to talk about different parts of what the startup does, with no unifying thread of how these parts relate to one another. This makes matters worse.

A much better approach to understanding what the startup does is to ask the founder what the step by step user or customer journey of someone using the startup looks like.

For example, in the case of an e-commerce startup selling physical goods, what sequence of events takes place after a customer places an order? How and at what time is the payment taken? Is the order routed to a specific supplier, or to the company’s warehouse, or does it depend on the specific product that is ordered? How and in how much time is the order prepared? How and in how much time is the order delivered to the customer? How does the customer track and ask questions about their order during this process? After receiving the order, can the customer choose whether to return the order or not? If so, how does the return take place? If not, how does the company measure the customer’s satisfaction? When and how does the company pay the supplier?

Similarly to the post-order customer journey outlined above, it’s possible to outline other user or customer journeys. Once again, in the context of an e-commerce startup selling physical goods, this would include a user’s pre-order website navigation journey and the separate pre and post-order customer service journeys.

The benefit of this approach is two-fold.

First, it helps the investor better understand what the startup does.

Second, the founder’s ability to clearly communicate the step by step user or customer journey reflects the extent to which they have thought about and understand what their startup does. This is an indicator of the startup’s eventual probability of success.

Inaction

We live in a time period where technology has greatly increased our productivity. This means that, on an individual basis, we can get things done much faster than before.

Thanks to the content available on the internet, we can learn faster than before.

Thanks to the extensive storage and processing capabilities of software and hardware, we can apply our learnings to quickly produce outputs from inputs.

And thanks to online communication tools like email and messaging apps, we can instantaneously relay the outputs we produce, and the decisions based on these outputs, to the people we interact with.

In other words, technology makes it easy to act fast.

However, acting fast isn’t always in our interest.

Although there is a limitless amount of content that we can learn from, our brains remain single track processors that need to recharge regularly. We therefore need to choose what to learn, and allow enough time for the learning to actually take place.

Although we have, for most practical purposes, virtually infinite storage and processing capabilities, that doesn’t mean that we should store and process everything. ¬†We need to ask the right questions based on our learnings in order to store and process data that’s likely to produce meaningful answers. We also need to cross-check the assumptions behind our answers before using these answers to drive our decisions.

And although we can instantaneously communicate the outputs we produce, and the decisions we take based on these outputs, to others, we need to take into account the fact that the recipients of these outputs and decisions are humans. Humans process information differently depending on when they receive it, both on an absolute basis (for example, the time of day or on weekdays versus weekends) and on a relative basis (for example, relative to when they expect to receive it, which is in turn influenced by the importance of the output or decision and when you last communicated). As a result, the first moment when an output or decision is available for communication isn’t necessarily the right moment for its communication.

In other words, while technology makes it easy to act fast, as a result of our humanity, there are important benefits to inaction.