If you strip away some of the more complex quantifications, there are many economics concepts that can be applied to business and public speaking.
(If you are new here, you may not have encountered a full blast of my nerdy nature. Consider yourself initiated, and hang on for the ride).
Right now, I’m delighted by being made aware of the applicability of marginal utility to the length of written work.* This is all about learning when enough is enough.
TL:DR (Too Long: Didn’t Read) is a beautiful example of marginal utility manifest in a non-economic context. The more words you force me to read, the less value I get out of the reading experience. I, the reader, am unlikely to be paying any actual attention by the end of the article. This is wretched habit to foster in readers. TL:DR responses are usually characterized by jackass comments from people who didn’t look into enough of the content to actually understand what the author was talking about. There is entertainment value in these comments, as the commentator usually notes the fact that they were unwilling to read the whole article by stating “TL:DR”. Trolling will almost inevitably ensue.
Entertainment value aside, you really do want to avoid TL:DR.** You don’t want readers to be skimming down the article or skipping ahead in the video. This means they aren’t getting more value by continuing to pay attention. If they feel like they are actually wasting time – diminishing value – then your words are garnering negative marginal utility.
Positive marginal utility is much better. Know when to stop, how much is enough. It is likely less than you think. Leave your audience wanting more, and be sure to show them how to get it.
*Hat tip to James Altucher for bringing this to my attention
**This isn’t always possible. Some people are just lazy and inattentive by nature, poor souls.
Now it’s over to you: have you ever mucked around with concepts from other disciplines to make your work better? What do you think the marginal utility of words might be – what is that magic length before someone hits the TL:DR point? Let me know in the comments below!
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