The easiest litmus test in the world is the template test. If you gravitate toward template documents to communicate with customers, executives, peers or employees, you are not valuable. You are showing up to collect a paycheck in exchange for filling out a form. You don’t have the passion or skill to put together a truly compelling presentation that will lead to breakthrough change for your company or your customer, and your reliance on templates will keep you that way.
The danger with templates isn’t what you think it is – sure, your customer may notice that you used the same clip art as a competitor, or you may forget to find & replace another customer name with theirs. Those things are embarrassing, but the real danger is that you don’t have a vision for what you are trying to achieve. With no vision, you cannot create valuable change design, so you fill in a template with as much unique data as you can muster just so you at least appear competent.
For you, this isn’t about making a difference, helping your company get better or building your legacy of value. It is more like a homework assignment; you just want a passing grade so you don’t get canned. You will likely get exactly that: a life of turning in homework assignments that don’t win deals, don’t improve your company and don’t add value of any kind. But one day you will be laid off.
Getting away from templates does not have as much to do with MS Office skills as it does with competency and passion. The first step is not to sign up for document design classes, but to ask yourself: