Who reads think-tank reports?

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One of the first few career rules I got to learn, as a management consultant, is that the more information you deliver to the recipient the less the chance an action will be taken based upon. That sounded awkward at the beginning but was proven true later on. I guess no can disagree that the real value of knowledge lies in putting it in use.

When you send a 70 page sophisticated report to a busy CEO, you are simply disabling him/her from taking action based upon. The length and complexity is not only time consuming but distracting and often gets the reader to miss the important points that matter in the decision making process. Therefore, flooding decision makers or even the public with information does not only decrease the chance of considering it from the first place but often misleads and confuses.

Think tanks and research agencies world-wide are surely doing a great job; but I have been always wondering how far their lengthy reports do make it to policy makers’ desktops. Knowing how busy people are becoming these days, reading all this information and extracting valuable insights is simply inefficient if not impossible for some.

As I am personally an avid reader of researches, I can conclude that all of them can boiled down by 40-70% atleast which will make them more impactful and functional. This can be done as follows:
• Avoiding extended illustrations and sophisticated phrasing is a good start. I call it text stuffing!
• Using more visuals such as colorful graphs, pictures and info-graphic illustrations instead of some text.
• Focusing on the key message and keeping the content coherent. Swinging between multiple themes is a good recipe to confuse the vast majority.
• Avoiding excessive repetitions and affirmations of common-sense findings from literature.
• If possible, making 2 versions; an executive one for quick pragmatic reading and a scientific one for research purposes.

Moreover, if the goal is to just spread awareness then a report can be replaced with a more appealing and engaging means of communication. For instance, communicating research findings via a brief video over social media can reach a larger audience way more than sharing 30 page PDF file. A 5-10 minutes infographic video will help you tap into a whole new segment while making your message more memorable and informativ.

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