That got your attention, didn't it? Quite a teaser title, grabbing your attention and compelling you to at least read the opening paragraph. And that of course is the reason that blog authors use and over-use this tactic. It's a hook that dangles a quick fix answer in front of your nose. You can lose weight, increase sales, get a new job, manage your boss and cure cancer - all by condensing the apparent solution down to a few simple steps.
Who can resist the lure?
In our own field of Compensation this basic checkmark tactic is in full bloom, with repeated examples diluting the complexity of every problem and offering simplistic solutions that in all truthfulness should be obvious answers to most. How often are those quick steps actually little more than common sense, and have you the reader muttering, "Of course"? And there perhaps lies the rub. What you gain from these "steps" is often less gems of wisdom than a condensed rehash of what you already know, only now formatted with a seductive lure.
By comparison, most workplace problems have more moving parts, more complexities and more risks associated with wrong moves than would be suggested by a short "just follow these steps" inducement. I don't have an EASY button where I work. Do you?
But real-answer articles are more complex to write, require more words to explain themselves and may suffer lack of attention from a "don't have the time" audience.
Then again, perhaps a bit of silver lining can be for those using the list of steps as checkmarks for their own activities, sort of as a reminder to buy the milk, take out the garbage, feed the cat, etc. Not rocket science, but a convenient to-do list reminder. Whenever you're undertaking a major project, having a project plan that includes a list of necessary activities could be a useful tactic to keep things on track and on time.
You can't take the chance
We're helpless to resist the step-by-step hook though, perhaps out of fear that we might be missing the solution to the Gordian Knot, the Rosetta Stone or perhaps finding the location of Atlantis. That promised quick fix answer to our most frustrating challenge, the one that has seemed just out of reach for so long - might be right here in front of us, miraculously, and all dumbed down to make it seem so simple. All we have to do is read this article, blog post or link to another website. It's like taking a diet pill, isn't it?
Oh, and the five reasons I teased you with at the start? Let's see:
- Bullet points are easier to remember than paragraphs
- You'll be able to recite the points later, perhaps at a meeting where you'll look good
- Remembering the 1-2-3 steps will gain you instant credibility outside your functional circle
- There's less risk of challenge to bullet points than to explanatory text
- The author can prepare an article or posting faster this way
And in case you haven't guessed it by the above, yes, the number of steps, reasons, causes, etc. is usually a made-up affair. Many authors first decide on the number, then back into the explanations.
It's all about getting you to read their stuff.
But that would be a 6th reason.
Chuck Csizmar CCP
is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global
compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and
non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR
Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based
subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate
compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys
growing fruit and managing (?) a brood of cats.
Creative Commons image courtesy of sideshowbarker