The 5 Minute Tech Break : May 3


It's that Friday feeling again and here in the UK, we have the added bonus of a bank holiday Monday and a forecast of no rain (it's a bank holiday tradition here, that it rains!).

This week we want to look at words.  Powerful, magical, creative, destructive tools of communication that if you're aiming or grappling with senior roles in tech management, you need to master.

Enjoy the read.

Jason & Andrew

'Would You Be Willing?': Words to Turn a Conversation Around (and Those to Avoid)

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it – isn’t it?

This article looks into the issue of language and a study based around analysis of thousands of hours of conversations.

They discovered that certain words of phrases have the power to change the course of a conversation ...

Use 'willing' instead of 'just' and 'speak' instead of 'talk'

Don't use 'How are you?' - because it reeks of insincerity and selling.

Do use 'some' instead of 'any' and of course we're all familiar with the sinking feeling when someone says "Yes, but ...." where, everything said before but, becomes irrelevant.

Language is so powerful and so central to how you communicate that this article is an interesting read and useful starting point to understand how the use of words will/is shaping how you manage.

Book of the week :
A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon


How many of us have had to suffer meetings where the key protagonist(s) spin out the most cliched and acronym stuffed management-speak.

The torture of such meetings, which always seem to last longer than most, can only be broken by retaining a firm tongue in the cheek and if it's a regular fixture in your working schedule, bringing out the bullshit bingo cards.  Use this example or a variation of it.

Alternatively you might want to buy (or perhaps send as a gift) a Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon ... which captures many a frustration along the following lines ..

Do you hate going forward? Do you shudder when a colleague wants to reach out? Are you disgusted by low-hanging fruit, sick of being on the team, and reluctant to open the kimono?

Does the phrase blue-sky thinking make you see red?

Do you really want to drill down or take a helicopter view?

Time for us to have a lie down and recover ....

WeWork and another pesky IPO

Avid followers of the '5 Minute Tech Break' may recall us previously recommending a book called 'Disputed' ... subtitled "My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble" ... where the author documents with some humour and sharp penetration, his time aboard the Hubspot project en route to their IPO.  

It's fair to say that the book is not wholly complementary, essentially claiming that the IPO road map is built to maximise exit money for founders and VCs, not to deliver any great value to the market.

That book always returns to mind when I hear news of the latest rush to IPO, enter those fine folks at WeWork.

To those unfamiliar with WeWork, it is a co-working behemoth that's tried to take over the world.  Their rush for expansion, despite huge losses, was only ever a rush to one place, an initial public offering and who would have thunk it ... on Monday, the company confirmed in a press release that's where they're heading.

No-one can doubt it's been a 'success' on paper, valued at $47 billion in January 2019, they did have a stumble recently when a Japanese telecom giant pulled out of a significant investment.

This might be based on the fact that despite revenues of $1.8 billion in 2018, their net losses hit an astonishing $1.9 billion.

Are they the latest and worst example of over hyped and over here?   Part of an IPO stampede that always delivers a handsome return for existing stakeholders, but rarely for new ones?

And they don't even serve free beer anymore ...


... and words shape your organisation and culture

As many of you are involved in start ups and early stage companies, it's amazing how language, words, messaging will shape and start to cement the culture of your growing business and also the relationship you form with your customers.

It's fascinating to watch fast growth companies take flight and what becomes embedded culturally within that company.

When your business is emerging and in particular, as you start to build a community and tribe, you will be shaping the rules, the conversations and putting in place the guard rails that will dictate what culture takes root as you grow. 

Early interactions set the tone and culture cements very early.  As an example, don't offload communication to bots and interns, before you've set a template for what and how your brand and company communicates.

You might only have a stakeholder base of 500 people today, but behaviour traits will scale with you.  

This 2012 article from HBR looked at how language shapes an organisation.

Quote of the Week

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."- Dorothy Nevill

And there you have it ... another week done, dusted and ready to be put to bed.

For those of you with an insatiable appetite for our words, you can spend this lovely weekend reviewing the archive of previous '5 minute tech breaks'.

For all of you, be happy, healthy and love your family.

Until next time ...