Today I want to talk about communication because it’s embedded in our day-to-day and is essential for our teams and organizations to work efficiently. Concretely, I would like to talk about the ability to synthesize. Being more precise, the ability of individual synthesis. It is, how each of us choose the most relevant information, order it and communicate it.
We usually forget about how we communicate to ensure that our partner correctly and efficiently understands what we want to say. And that’s a shame, because details like choosing which information we share, how we share it and which language we use offer great improvement opportunities.
Have you ever been in an endless meeting? Have you ever skimmed an email because it was too long? Being able to synthesize information correctly will help us, among other things, to avoid this kind of situations.
To show you a real example: one day, after one of our planning meetings, and while one team member provided a summary of the meeting to another one, they said some sentences like “we have prioritized the most important things” (of course we did!) or “we put the most important tasks on top” (what does “on top” mean”?).
Synthesize better and be more productive
Why to talk about something so concrete? Because I think that improving our synthesizing ability will grant us advantages at multiple levels. Let’s see some of them:
- First, being able to remove unnecessary details when communicating will allow us to remove waste. On the other hand, it will make it easier for our partner to correctly understand the information, without getting lost on irrelevant details.
- On the other hand, communication is around us in all our day-to-day. From our conversations with team members to explaining something to our client or manager. Being able to improve those small communication details will be a very important overall improvement.
- It will also make our meetings more fluid and productive because people will get to the point by focusing on the most relevant details in an ordered way. And that’s very important because usually meetings are unnecessarily lengthened because people get lost talking about out of the scope topics.
- Furthermore it will help us to improve our soft skills. This may be the less visible advantage but it’s one of the most important ones. For example, it will improve our ability to empathize. Communicating an information in an synthesized way requires, first of all, to be able to put ourselves in our partner’s shoes to understand which details are really important for them and which language we must use so they correctly understand. It will also improve our ability to collaborate. If we’re not open to collaboration, it will be very difficult to make an effort to communicate in an efficient way. Furthermore, as we talked about in this post, working on these skills will also make it easier for other people to trust us.
- It even has side advantages like making brainstorming sessions more fluid. In this sessions we first have a divergence stage, where we generate a pool of ideas, which we make them converge later. It’s in this last stage where our ability to extract the most relevant information pieces and join and order them will help us a lot.
If you want to synthesize better, you can
First of all, I would like to highlight that there is not a single way to synthesize information. There can be different ways of synthesizing and all of them valid. We are talking about being able to extract the most relevant information and order it, so there will be different ways to do it.
The good side is that, in the same way as with other abilities, we may train our ability to synthesize if we invest the time and effort it requires. We will slowly see how every time we communicate better in a natural way.
- A first area we may focus on is empathy. As I said before, we must take into account that we are looking to share an information with our partner, and it’s essential that they understand it properly. Keeping this in mind will help us to choose the right information and language.
- Good synthesis also requires us to improve our ability to abstract, to be able to take a high overview of the raw information to extract the most relevant pieces.
- It also requires to be able to properly order ideas in our head and to think before speaking. I’m sure that you might have met someone who started talking about their ideas as soon as they come to their mind. Maybe for this person everything they said made sense but for us it was a messy explosion of ideas which we have to order before understand.
- Furthermore, we will be able to synthesize better only if we really understand the information. I mean, our ability to keep attention and to extract the most important information is critical.
- Another tool we may use is feedback. There is nothing better than asking directly to our partner so they can tell us how we communicate. Their opinion is the most reliable source to look for improvement opportunities. It could even be indirect feedback: signs of uncertainty, cutting the conversation to accelerate it, etc.
Synthesizing exercises which will help you
I want to show you some ideas which you may easily apply in your day-to-day and which have helped us to improve.
A first exercise could be as simple as recording our synthesis or most important conversations so we can listen to them later. Seeing us from an external perspective will help us to understand better what information we are actually sharing and how we order and communicate it.
Another exercise would be to take a concrete information and find a way to synthesize it in very few words. I mean a Twitter-like way where, within 280 characters, you must be able to expose one idea. The principle is the same: to force us to extract what is really relevant, because there won’t be room for more.
We could also create a tags map or a brief summary on the way. This may help us to retain key concepts instead of trying to think again about the complete conversation, getting lost into too much information. When synthesizing it would be enough to refine and join those tags in a proper way.
Finally, another interesting exercise we have been using for some time is to keep a “synthesizer” role in your meetings. Their goal is to summarize the information and decisions taken during the meeting to ensure that everyone is aligned with them. Furthermore, the main benefit is that, with this exercise, that person will slowly improve their soft skills, which will affect all their day-to-day interactions. To ensure the maximum benefit it’s important to rotate this role among all the team members.
As you can see, communication is very important in all our day-to-day. Concretely, we must pay attention to our ability to synthesize and the improvement opportunities it offers to us. From time and misunderstanding savings at any conversation to boosting our ability to empathize and collaborate.
I hope you have found this post interesting and I encourage you to share your own experiences and any other way you know to help us to improve our synthesizing ability.