(Author’s Note: The Latimer Group has been around for twenty years… a long time, and a milestone we are proud of. And one of the things I have been doing a lot of this year is reflecting on how much the world has changed in those twenty years. This post will be the first of many this year, where I reflect back on the things that have changed the most since I launched The Latimer Group in 2002.)
Details matter in business, and in some industries, the details are everything. But the amount of detail we discuss in meetings and presentations, and the way in which we communicate it, is a daily source of frustration in most companies. I hear this every single day… I am drowning in detail… I didn’t need to know that… my people don’t know how to simplify things… literally every day this is a topic in our workshops.
Why is this true? Why is our relationship with detail so complicated? Let’s dig into this…
Twenty years ago, information was much harder to accumulate, store and access than it is today. Think about how much has changed in the last twenty years, especially in the ways we consume content. Twenty years ago, very few people had wireless internet in their home; Netflix’s business model still included mailing DVDs to people (and Blockbuster was still a thing, btw); there were no smart phones or social media; no one knew what “streaming content” was; your basic cable package had less than 1000 channels; we still had to watch the news to get the news… I could go on and on. Our entire relationship with content and information in general was very different. We wanted a lot more of it, because it was much harder to come by.
And for all of these reasons, and more, in a business setting twenty years ago, the most valuable person in most meetings was the person who could provide and dig into the details. Information was much harder to gather, store, dissect and distribute. So the person who had the information was massively valuable.
But that was twenty years ago.
Today, our relationship with content in general, and business details in particular, is much more complicated. We know it matters, but the vast majority of people suffer from a constant and daily state of “content overwhelm.” The biggest business problem today is not access to sufficient detail. The biggest and most common business problem today is what to do with all the information that is flowing at us. How to use it, translate it, act on it. Simplify it.
Today, the most valuable person in most meetings is not the person with all the details. The most valuable person today is the person who can explain, translate, simplify and make sense of all the information at our fingertips. The translator is the person with competitive advantage. The person with all the details almost always works for the translator. We used to rely on the person who got us the information. Today we rely on the person who can make it easier to absorb the overwhelming amount of information that is drowning us.
Every day, I hear business leaders and professionals complaining about all the terrible meetings, conversations and presentations they have to sit through, that feel like a waste of their time. This is, without a doubt, the most common complaint we hear. So, I challenge you to ask yourself this question: “How often do people feel like MY meetings or presentations are a waste of their time?”
Be honest. I want you to think about the kind of communicator you are in the workplace.
Twenty years ago lots of detail made you look prepared. Today, lots of detail can make you look like you did less work, like you just threw some things together, to try to cover your own you-know-what. Today, too much detail can make you look like you couldn’t make a choice, and that you tried to cover your lack of preparation by throwing a more-is-better quick fix at the problem. Preparation today is about showing that you have curated the details, determined what is most valuable, simplified your message, and are ready to go deeper into detail if asked.
Do you want to be valuable to your organization? Then be the one who can translate and simplify. Details still matter. But hold them in reserve, to be used if necessary. We all must realize that the dramatic shift in available information has completely changed what it means to be the most valuable person in the room.
How valuable are you?
Have a great day.
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