Brevity Through Structure

June 24th, 2018

Ten years ago, I participated in my first facilitated workshop. Our facilitator Helene kicked off with how to write on post-its:

“Use the thick sharpie. That way you can’t write too much.”

Communicating with brevity is a challenge. But when we get across what we need to with just enough detail, we make it easier for others to interpret, respond, and build on our ideas.

One way to force brevity is through structure.

You can only fit so much on a 3 x 3” post-it with a thick marker. It’s not that we always want to say more, but in the absence of constraints we may feel obligated to.

People & Company post-its taking over my apartment.

Another example of brevity through structure is A3 thinking. It’s a tool for improving processes by outlining a problem and recommending a solution, and the format must fit on A3 sized paper (11.7 x 16.5”).

Healthcare example of A3 thinking from Lean Healthcare West (source)

Or there’s the business model canvas. I realize now that the value is not just what is written but how users are forced to write concise descriptions of a business’ key elements. The ideas are less precious. We’re more willing to iterate.

We encounter brevity through structure every day—character limits, lines on a form. The size of the box informs what goes in the box. So choose your box with intention.

Tagged: a3 thinking, brevity, business model canvas, post-its