Brevity Can Boost Your Signal-To-Noise

Brilliance NUGGETS need brevity. Every day, I challenge myself to express something meaningful in a few words. Along the way, it dawned on me that brevity can increase the “signal-to-noise” ratio. When the signal is much greater than the noise, the message is clear and impactful. In other words, a strong message is like shedding light on an otherwise foggy path.

  • The core message is the “signal”; the rest is the “noise.”
  • Often, the “signal” concludes a longer thought process. There may be room to summarize the thought process and cite a reference.

How Much Brevity Makes For A Strong Signal?

Of course, that depends on the subject. These two questions come to mind:

  1. How do you avoid simplifying too much and distorting the message?
  2. How do we present a conclusion without explaining the thought process that led to it?

Great questions! These are critical questions not only for writing Brilliance Nuggets. They matter a lot when we create ways to protect and transfer knowledge, expertise, and wisdom (aka brilliance).

When transferring knowledge, the trainer MUST give the trainee an overview first. It is a roadmap for what is coming. It is the top-of-the-box (TOTB). Imagine how hard it would be to assemble a 1,000 piece puzzle without knowing the picture of the puzzle. The image is the TOTB. Thank you, Irene Donnell, for sharing this metaphor with me years ago.

How Can You Create the Top-Of-The-Box For Your Brilliance?

Consider these two questions:

  • What do you want to convey? In my signal-to-noise analogy, that is the “signal.”
  • Who is the recipient? It is essential to establish a context where the recipient finds the signal meaningful.

You could attempt to create a TOTB at this stage. Sometimes that is easy and obvious. Yet, often it is likely that you need to take a few more steps first.

The Top-Of-The-Box gets a lot clearer while you extract your brilliance and work to present it systematically.

My Proven Brilliance Extraction Process At A Glance

  1. Create an outline of your message. It is often helpful to think of your big message as a “dresser” and all the subtopics as “drawers.”
  2. “Dump” what you want to convey into the “drawers” of your “dresser.” The material is now organized by drawer (socks, T-shirts, etc.), but each drawer’s content is still unorganized.
  3. Organize each drawer. Identify and add what is missing. You may find that you omit things you don’t even remember you know. (That is common and one of the reasons why having a Brilliance Extractor help you is so valuable.)
  4. Reconsider the flow, i.e., the order in which you want to present the information in each drawer.
  5. Figure out how to simplify the information you want to convey. This step requires distilling the essence. What is the core message (the “signal”)?
  6. Challenge yourself to say in a few words. Better yet, make a graphic or process map. You must keep your target audience in mind!
  7. The most crucial step is to get feedback and test how well your message lands with people you want to train.

These steps often go hand-in-hand – expect steps 1 and 2 need to happen first.

The Takeaways

  1. Brevity requires clarity! A brief but clear message boosts your “signal-to-noise.”
  2. The Top-Of-The-Box (TOTB) is a brief, yet strong “signal”
    • It tells your trainees the essence of what is coming in more detail, and why it matters to them.
    • It is the most important signal for your brilliance.
  3. The TOTB’s signal results from you having thought through
    • What is MOST criticial?
    • What is the context that makes sense to your trainees?

I’m Curious

What is your experience with training where you were the trainee? Did they give you a great TOTB?

  • If yes, how helpful was that?
  • If not, to what extent did its absence make it confusing or unmotivating to learn the material?

Live Brilliantly,

Dr. Stephie

P.S.: I appreciate you commenting and sharing this Brilliance Nugget with others. Thank you!

Stephie Althouse

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