I’ve been on a reading rampage as of late, even more than usual. Blame or thank my iPad and a pandemic. That’s not to say that I read every business book that comes my way. Authors and publishers like sending me them because I write for some high-profile sites.
It’s not that difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. (I’d argue that the following list applies to public speaking as well, but I’ll focus on books.) I’ve come to the realization that most good business writing includes ample doses of each of the four elements:
I for one appreciate it when authors have done their homework and can tie current events to historical ones. Have we seen this movie before? Where? How is the present similar/different from the past? Why?
We live in an era of Big Data, but only 12 percent of all business books contain numbers.
OK, I’m kidding, but I’ve read plenty of books in which the authors failed to use any numbers to buttress their arguments. On the other side of the coin, writers and speakers frequently abuse stats. Mark Twain thought so. Still, I’m more inclined to buy a book’s core argument if a statistic or two backs it up.
Data and history are necessary but insufficient conditions for a compelling business text. Show me don’t tell me, as a Rush song goes. Bonus points if your social media book doesn’t cover well-trodden ground like Comcast Cares or United Breaks Guitars. Pioneer new case studies if you can.
Yes, these are important too. What’s your viewpoint? Only after you’ve shown me facts, data, and stories am I likely to believe your opinions.
Data and history are necessary but insufficient conditions for a compelling business text.
These four elements don’t guarantee a good book, much less a bestseller. Ditto for talks. I’m more likely, though, to enjoy and recommend business texts with these four things.