Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TMI

TMI usually refers to presenting too much information about yourself to someone who REALLY doesn't want that information. Like, informing people of your menstrual cycle. Or discussing your boyfriend's .. er.. assets. TMI. 

But, there's business TMI, which is effectively the opposite. I use it to describe the situation when you ask someone a question like "what's the stock market doing today?" and they reply with an analyst report 40 pages long. This, or some variation of this, happens ALL THE TIME. Either laziness prevents them from actually answering the question directly, or some inability to consume and distill information. 

It makes no sense for everyone in the company to read the 60 page analyst report. It makes sense for one person to read it, and convey the salient points. In the MIT Sloan Management Review this month, Edward Tufte wrote something to the effect of "if a leader only wants the highlights, it's a sign they don't want to dig into the details."  I disagree. I think in every report or analysis, there is a set of things that merit more understanding and analysis - and that section should be distilled and shared, rather than the entire book. 

It isn't a matter of watering down all of it - it's a matter of highlighting the key passages. More bookmarks than cliffnotes. 

I wonder, is this taught in school? I know Molson recalls my fanatic "tell me why I should read this article in 1 sentence when you forward it" behavior in the consulting world... but I don't recall it being part of undergraduate education. Maybe they should teach a class on identifying salient points. Or maybe that's "Debate, 101"


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