“Any clod can have loads of information, but forming an opinion is an art”
Consultants often work through random & wellspring of information and come out with sensible and effective solutions. Identifying themes and key messages from the deluge of information therefore becomes a cornerstone for success of a consulting engagement. It contributes not only to developing solutions but also presenting solutions and hence is one among the highest rated skill in consulting industry. The article presents my thoughts on how identifying key messages contribute to effective communication & problem solving and offers some tips on developing the skill of identifying key messages.
How key messages contribute to problem solving and problem solving
- In communicating solutions, consultants need to covey the key message foremost followed by the supporting facts (often named as pyramid principle or top-down approach). The key message therefore goes as the title of the chart or becomes the first slide and the supporting facts form the body of the slide or follows the first slide. (In nutshell, apply the concept of Elevator Pitch)
- In the process of problem solving, identifying key themes/areas of problem helps consultants to prioritize and channel their efforts, which translates into timely and effective design of solution. Often, in the consulting lingo we refer to identifying key themes and areas as Pareto principle (80/20 principle).
How to develop the art of identifying key messages: One aspiring to effectively use this tool needs to practice the tool regularly. Some of the easy to adopt methods (Not Exhaustive) are listed below
- Summarizing: Summarizing articles/documents one reads in his daily life is a great tool to learn the method of identifying themes. Apply observations and common sense to derive the key message from the summary. Please note that key message is not a mere summary of facts and observations but a synthesized version of the summary. Attaching weights/priorities to the identified themes and messages can help you elevate your skills of problem solving.
- Structure your communication: Always apply the thumb rule of conveying the message first while communicating. While making slides ensure that you state key messages as the title and support the message with facts and inferences in the body of the slide OR while designing the flow of the presentation ensure you present key messages first followed by the supporting facts and information.
- Use of Word clouds: Word cloud is a visual representation of text data, typically used to depict keywords and themes. A word cloud of this is presented in the below image. It simply indicates that this blog talks about identifying key messages in consulting. Word cloud software can be of great help to capture key themes and messages from lengthy documents and articles in quick span of time.
As stated in my opening statement, merely having information does not translate into solution. Identifying key messages helps one to effectively use the information to design and present solutions and hence one among the highest rated skill set in the consulting industry.