Ask business owners or executives whether clear communication is important in their businesses, and you'll likely get a resounding yes. Business leaders know that if they can't communicate the value their organizations bring customers, their businesses won't survive. Whether that writing takes the form of a sales pitch, an email, or a journal article about recent research, the understanding is that clear writing demonstrates clear thinking, which reflects well on the company.
Even though business leaders put a high value on the finished written product, they might not always appreciate the value that they can get from the writing process itself. Writing isn't just a way to demonstrate clear thinking: it's also a tool for clear thinking. Employees who frequently write for their companies may exhibit better critical thinking skills in all their activities.
Writing to think
Writing has been part of traditional education for centuries. But particularly over the past few decades, academic researchers have built a large body of research that reveals the power and value of writing for enhancing learning and critical thinking.
Studies such as this one from Clemson University show that when students are asked to write critically about a topic, they produce better results when they've practiced critical writing frequently. Those who write infrequently don't put their thoughts together as clearly.
The idea of "practice makes proficient" might seem obvious and, indeed, there's no doubt that practicing a writing process helps produce better writing. But as the Clemson study notes, students who were practicing writing analytic essays were not just practicing writing essays: they were also practicing analyzing complex concepts, organizing their thinking, and focusing their thoughts.
In her blog, Rachael Cayley, associate professor at the University of Toronto, explains the difference in mindset. She responds to a colleague who asserts that writers should come to their writing already knowing what they're going to write. Cayley doesn't discount his assertion that to produce quality writing, you need to know what you're writing about. But she does note that the act of writing is an important tool for enabling thinking in the first place.
Outside of academia, the benefits of writing are no less evident. Employees who write frequently for their companies are both producing a product for communication and performing the process of thinking critically about their work, thus developing their craft as they produce materials. They are engaging deeply with problems and questions by utilizing their critical thinking and writing skills, and in the process, becoming more valuable to the organizations they serve.
Business leaders naturally value employees who can write well. But they may be getting more than just good communications: they may be getting a stronger business.