One of my favourites among the magazines I write for is BenefIT (www.benefitmag.com). It's a magazine that talks about Information Technology for businesses worth Rs. 2 to 200 crores, generically referred to as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Writing for BenefIT has been and is a constant learning experience for me. After looking at technology from a purely factual and scientific angle right through many years of education and a few years of work, this was my first experience looking at technologies from the eyes of a target audience, seeing them from "behind the eyeballs" of the SMEs, as they say!
When we evaluate IT from an entrepreneur's angle, many questions arise: is it necessary for the enterprise, is it affordable, maybe not today but will the technology revolutionize the future - if so, what does the enterprise have to do today to have an early adopter advantage, how can existing technologies be leveraged for greater advantage, are there times when older technologies are more practical than newer ones, and so on - questions which may not arise when you talk to a scientist about his latest research.
In other terms, it requires placing IT in its real place - not as a standalone wonder, but as an enabler that has to gel with the business.
In order to analyse technologies from such multifarious angles, I started using Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats. Very popular in the business world, I find it adapts beautifully to the profession of writing too.
The technique involves wearing 6 hats (imaginary, ofcourse ;-)) in succession - each hat requires you to think in a different way, thereby enabling you to take a complete view of any situation/ subject. Here are the 6 hats, and how they help me while writing for BenefIT.
White is a neutral colour. When you wear the white hat, you take an objective stance and focus on facts and figures alone. This is the data collection/ research task.
Red suggests emotions, anger, passion. While wearing this hat you are allowed to give vent to your opinions/ feelings. It helps me express my view or intuition about a technology. This is where I also talk to experts and find out what they think.
Even if I am not confident enough to say, "I think this software is just a lot of jazz; it's not going to help your enterprise in any way," this exercise atleast helps me to identify grey areas, which need to be researched further. More than anything else, it either convinces me about the technology or makes me chuck the article.
Black is ominous. It requires you to take a pessimistic view and analyse the downside. It identifies weaknesses. IMHO, this is very important while writing for a SME audience, because a lot of technologies may not really help them - 2 to 200 crores is a large gap. A technology which applies to a 200 crore company may not fit a 2 crore one. So, when we take up a technology for analysis, we should also present downsides like high cost so that companies can decide whether or not to make the investment.
Sunny and positive, the yellow hat requires you to focus on the plus points. Only when I am convinced about the benefits of a technology can I express it well enough for the users to perceive. Obviously this hat is very important when I write for BenefIT, because the magazine aims to encourage the adoption of IT.
Signifies abundance and creativity. Think up new ideas. Look beyond the present, at the greener pastures. In addition to how the technology can help today, this hat helps me present how it will help in the future.
Blue is a cool colour. It signifies the sky. Symbolically, the blue hat takes a overall view. It summarizes the findings of all the other hats. At last when I wear the blue hat, I should be able to formulate the article outline based on what I came up with while wearing the other hats.
Here are some of my articles, which were published in BenefIT...
Shop and Sell, With Just a Click – January 2006 <http://www.benefitmag.com/admin/issuepdf/RFIDinemarketplace.pdf>
RFID - Revolutionising the Office - December 2005 <http://www.benefitmag.com/admin/issuepdf/RFID%20office%20Automation.pdf>
Birth of an IT Savvy Manufacturer - November 2005 <http://www.benefitmag.com/admin/issuepdf/IT%20savvy.pdf>
RFID - Automating the Automotive Industry - October 2005 <http://www.benefitmag.com/admin/issuepdf/RFIDauto.pdf>