How To Synthesize Information
or, The World Doesn’t Need Another Leadership Consultant, Part II
In my first post on the subject of leadership consultancy, I said that the main requirement to be an effective consultant or coach is to be able to synthesize and apply information in a way that is particularly tailored to meet your client’s needs. In this post, I want to dive into what that actually means.
The definition of “synthesis” is the ability to combine a number of things into a coherent whole. Synthesizing information, then, is the process of taking bits and pieces of information and creating a new and coherent thought from them. Sometimes these bits of information are related to each other, sometimes they aren’t. The beauty of synthesis is the ability to create new and innovative linkages between seemingly unrelated pieces of information.
This is where the best consultants and coaches make their money. Anybody can read something, reword it, and regurgitate it. The real work of leadership consulting lies in creating new frameworks, new ideas, new methodologies of applying existing information.
One of the best ways to learn and practice the ability to synthesize information is found in the methodology of Design Thinking. I’ll write a longer more detailed post covering the entirety of Design Thinking in the future but for a basic intro, read this. The critical part of the methodology that I want to talk about in this post is the first phase of the five phases of Design Thinking; Empathy.
Empathy seems like an unusual place to start when it comes to creating or designing a new product, service, or customer strategy plan. But here’s where I want to draw the line in the sand and say that in order to effectively synthesize you MUST be able to empathize.
The task of assembling information into a coherent whole requires you to be able to understand and empathize with where you client is coming from, and what problem it is that they need you to solve.
This, I think, is where so many gurus fall short these days: A lack of empathy. They are too quick to try to paper over the problem with a one-size-fits-all solution (a disease that doesn’t just affect consultants, by the way) rather than investing the time and energy in building a relationship based on empathy with their clients.
Without that relationship, without that understanding of where the client is coming from, and what they are looking to achieve, any attempt to help, or counsel, or advise will ultimately fall short. Our ability to provide value to our customers is based on helping them solve a problem that they can’t solve themselves. If, in the Information Age, a customer can simply google the answer to any problem they face, they have no need of us. Our power, our experience, and our expertise lies in the realm of synthesizing information in such a way that it particularly benefits our customer. Simply put, a lot of our job as consultants is to DO THE THINKING FOR THEM. Yes, we want our clients to learn, to become better leaders, better entrepreneurs, better managers, but we must understand that it is our job to create the environment for them to do that. Like I said in my original post, being a consultant is an inherently creative job. The ability to craft frameworks and methodologies that are uniquely tailored to your client’s particular needs is what sets the truly gifted consultant apart from the unscrupulous snake oil salesmen in this day and age.