The parable of Ray’s Helicopter Company

by Josh Bernoff Once there was a man named Ray who was the CEO of a company that made helicopters. In his youth he had been an avid pilot. Soon after, he started the company with a few friends. Over time, Ray’s Helicopter, as the company was known, grew rapidly to command an impressive share of the … Continued

How to write a job description that’s not bullshit

Hiring is hard enough. If your job description says “we’re full of bullshit,” you’ll attract bullshitters and repel genuine human beings. Here’s the gist of my advice: write shorter and speak directly to applicants. If you want to see how not to do that, check out a job description Johnson & Johnson has posted (hat-tip to the brilliant … Continued

20 years an analyst

For 20 years, I did the same thing, mostly. I was a technology analyst at Forrester Research from 1995 until last month. If you do one thing for a long time, you should learn from it. My job at Forrester molded my ways of thinking more than anything else I’ve done (save becoming a parent). Perhaps … Continued

Is it a housing bubble or just another rhetorical question?

Harry Truman supposedly longed for a one-handed economist. As he pointed out, “All my economists say, ‘on the one hand . . . on the other . . .’ ” When the title of an article is a rhetorical question, I long for a one-handed reporter. I know there’s a real issue here. When a reporter … Continued

Companies with a purpose

Do your customers know who your company is? Do you? After my critique of Inovalon’s impenetrable “Who We Are” page, I began to wonder about purpose statements. My hypothesis is that companies with powerful, clear, differentiated statements about who they are have more effective employee teamwork and strong brands. Note that I don’t say that the statement causes … Continued

Send me your awful emails, job descriptions, and web pages

I need your help. needs fuel. I know you’re drowning in crappy stuff. I want to help. My post rewriting Inovalon’s “Who We Are” page was very popular. But I need more. Feed me! And I can keep things confidential. Send me: The email you got from your managers or HR department. The pitch … Continued

The cowardice of the “expected”

The word “expected” is a clear sign of bullshit in any written material. Here’s why: Writing contains two kinds of easily distinguished statements: facts and opinions. The writer vouches for the facts. And over time, you can see if the opinions turned out to be true. But a statement with “expected” is an opinion stated … Continued

David Ortiz: Big Papi without the bullshit

The Boston Globe did a whole section focused on Red Sox slugger David Ortiz today, including a Q&A interview. I was struck by just how direct Ortiz is, especially in contrast to the bullshit-laden interview with an NBA Players Association official that I wrote about last week. Athletes of this stature usually have two modes: … Continued