We have an enormous amount of experience here at Collective Next, both individually and collectively, but when we work with clients we know that they’re the experts on their business. We come equipped with ideas, tools, and approaches that help them collaborate better, find new ways to be creative, and build an environment that encourages innovation, but we’re bringing that knowledge to bear as we help experts make better decisions. We’re not telling our clients what to do; we’re helping them make better decisions about a business they know very well.

We may not know the businesses as well as our clients, but we’ve learned quite a bit in our company’s 11 years of helping them. If you listen to our facilitators discuss some of the industries we have the most experience in — financial services, medical and health — it will be clear that they understand those industries deeply. But they didn’t always. They learned, they shared what they learned, they learned some more, and so on.

I’ven been thinking about how that happens and I recently bumped into an essay that has probes the question and offers some answers: Simon St. Laurent’s Writing Without Knowing. St. Laurent is an editor at the tech pubisher O’Reilly Media (disclosure: I’ve done work for O’Reilly) and his essay is about some challenges in producing technical books. But the specific advice he gives makes sense in broader contexts. It offers superb, taut lessons in how to do good work while you’re on the way to becoming an expert and how to communicate what you’ve learned on a topic before you’ve learned everything about the topic. Anyone who has tried to learn more, quickly, so they can improve a business will recognize the relevance of St. Laurent’s lessons, among them picking an area that engages you, getting feedback early and often, and iterating. The most astute one might be “Create the simplest thing someone can actually do with the tools you’re covering, and describe it so that the audience you have in mind can follow it.” Put the idea into action and then develop it. If you want to read one thing this week that will make you work better, learn better, and maybe think better, read this