10 Reasons to Avoid Writing Top 10 Lists

When was the last time you actually remembered a list of the top ten.

  1. Basically, enough already. We’re saturated with top 10 (or top 5) reasons to do something. I don’t know about you, but I’m inundated, and I hardly bother to look at them anymore, unless the headline is unavoidably compelling, which is rare.
  2. They’ve become the literary equivalent of fast food. Enticing at first but soon completely forgettable. Most are just repurposed aphorisms that have been around, in one form or another, for years. At least say something!
  3. I understand the need for shortcuts. I know that people have little time to read and digest information and are looking for a simple way “to get it.” But we can still write short and engrossing paragraphs with headlines and other devices to guide the reader and still convey more nuance and depth.
  4. People remember and respond more deeply to stories. Nothing is better for conveying ideas or key messages than through human-to-human experiences with a beginning, middle and end.
  5. We remember beautiful and powerfully written quotes more than lists. I bet you can recite a line from Shakespeare or Martin Luther King. But when was the last time you remembered, let alone recited, even half of a top-10 list?
  6. Many top-10 lists in business try to communicate “best practices” – describing the best techniques or methods used in a company, field or industry. But these “practices” are often just the latest or trendiest, and the best practices of one era can soon be replaced by fads of the next. Even one management change can do the trick. Did someone say, JC Penney?
  7. Bandwidth. Leverage. Actionable. Business model. Deliverables. Drivers. Ecosystems. Synergies. Best of breed. Granularity. Mission-critical. Critical path. Core competencies. Buy-in. Drill down. Going forward. Matrix. This is the kind of soul-stripping, management-speak often used in top-10 lists. “Only if you have the core competencies will you be able to action the deliverables.” Is this really helpful?
  8. So, if you just follow the wisdom of the list, you’ll find success, right? Come on! Really? Is anything that simple?
  9. Do we really need more lists? I can barely get through my to-do list. Oh yeah, pick up the dry cleaning.
  10. Hmmm. What now? Where’s David Letterman when I need him. Clearly, I need to drill-down on the centers of excellence and the c-suite to leverage best-of-breed thinking and level-set learnings going forward.


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