A Culture of Writing; Second-Order Thinking; Code 2021 #112

Reflecting on a few interesting reads and listens over the past week

Building a Culture of Writing 

Some of the greatest companies today tend to have a culture of writing embedded into them including: 

This post goes into the value that can be gained by building a culture of writing throughout the organization. It can be used as either a papertrail that allows people to understand why decisions were made or a curation system where people are able to build a shared knowledge base. 

Here are a couple of parts that can be helpful for most of us - regardless of the line of work we're in. I'll be looking to implement these three tactics within my day-to-day work to help push a better writing culture internally. 

Meeting Agendas

  • Do everyone a favor and require these for meetings. If you’re running the meeting, but sure you have one. If you’re asked to attend a meeting without one, ask for it! 

  • Sending a meeting agenda signals to your colleagues that you value their team and helps them better prepare.

  • If shared context is required, try a drafting memo and starting the meeting off with a silent reading period.

  • Template: Start the meeting by stating “we should not leave this room without x” Before the meeting ends, check back against your meeting goal


  • If you get the same question 3 times, it’s probably time to document the answer somewhere. That way, your colleagues can self-serve on finding the information they need to do their work. It saves everyone time!


  • Companies often have a formal process for doing this. Whether it does or does not, I’m a big fan of the personal reflection as a tool for growth.

  • Consider sharing this with those you work with closely, especially if there are ways they can help you.

  • Anecdote: David Singleton’s Founders Journal has a section for tracking your satisfaction on a given week according to how you rate your week on the following dimensions. For me, it’s a great mechanism for keeping me honest on how I’m actually doing over time. 

    • 1- enjoyed it

    • 2- got stuff done

    • 3- progressed goals

    • 4- learned

  • Template: I like to do these in three sections. 

    • 1- where I believe my particular working style and skills are contributing to my success or holding me back

    • 2- where believe the infrastructure at the company is contributing to my success or holding me back

    • 3- asks for how those around you can help you grow and stay accountable

Second-Order Thinking 

The vast majority of content and applications are designed to encourage first-order thinking - where there is an action and consequent reaction. Combined with the idea of building a culture of writing, it is important to build the habit of second-order thinking. 

This post shares a few steps on how to improve your second-order thinking. 

  1. Always ask yourself “And then what?”

  2. Think through time — What do the consequences look like in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 Years? 1

  3. Identify your decision and think through and write down the consequences. If you review these regularly you’ll be able to help calibrate your thinking.

  4. (Bonus) If you’re using this to think about business decisions, ask yourself how important parts of the ecosystem are likely to respond. How will employees deal with this? What will my competitors likely do? What about my suppliers? What about the regulators? Often the answer will be little to no impact, but you want to understand the immediate and second-order consequences before you make the decision.

I personally believe the act of taking the time to brainstorm and writing down consequences vs. riffing in your head is a lot more powerful as it can allow you to revisit your thoughts later and often improve your thinking in the long-term. 

A bit more on second-order thinking here from this talk by Howard Marks. 

and another one - where Ray Dalio applies this idea to describe what's going on in the world (from an investing perspective). 

Code 2021 

If you're short on podcasts to listen/watch - I'd check out some of the talks from Code 2021 below.