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Distinguishing important from unimportant by guest blogger Dr. Paul Schempp

10 Aug 2018 12:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Dr. Schempp will be giving a special presentation the  evening before the ACE conference. Click here for  more details. 

You and a colleague are sitting together in a meeting.  Your colleague notices the dress, writing instruments, and accents of those seated across the table from you. You overlook those extraneous factors because they won’t influence the outcome of the meeting.  Instead, you locate the prime decision maker on the other side of the table and observe the keen interest that individual takes in the numbers and bottom line with seemingly little regard for hypothetical discussions or speculation.  During the break, a few casual questions might lead you to the unsurprising discovery that she attended a well-regarded college and majored in accounting. Your astute perception of several important details has now provided you with valuable insight on the type of information necessary to secure a future with this client while your colleague is left hoping things went well and wondering where they might find an outfit like the one the decision-maker was wearing.   

The advantages in distinguishing the important from the unimportant factors in a situation should be obvious.  Such a skill allows you to zero in on those things that will lead to decisions and actions that will influence outcomes in your favor.  But how do you learn to separate the useful from the useless?  The simple answer is that your extensive work experience and broad knowledge of the factors impacting workplace events are key elements in developing this skill.  But research has given us two helpful insights into how those will higher levels of expertise distinguish the important from the unimportant: a) utility and b) principles. 

A study of coaches with varying levels of expertise revealed no differences in the quantity of cues detected in the instructional environment.  Put another way, there was no difference in how much information was gathered from their observations.  There were, however, substantial differences in how they interpreted what they saw.  Those with less expertise identified a range of factors from what participants wore to where cars were parked.  Those with greater expertise saw a different set of factors in the same environment.  The experts perceptions focused on factors that led to performance assessments and subsequently to appropriate actions to improve performance.  In other words, the experts located factors that would help them assess the present situation and then plan strategies for appropriate action.  The difference between important and unimportant information for the experts was found in the usefulness of the information when taking action.  Experts know what is important and what is unimportant, and devote their full attention to identifying and then using the information that will improve performance.

Here is how to identify what is important and use it to you advantage:

First, identify the factors that will determine the results or outcome of the event.

Second, among those factors, recognize those that are under your control.  Give your attention to those factors and discount the things you cannot control.

Finally, determine which changes to the factors under your control and influencing outcomes will make the biggest difference in your success.  That is what is important.

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© 2017 Dr. Paul Schempp is an award-winning researcher, keynote speaker, author, consultant and recognized authority on developing expertise and performance improvement. To have Paul speak at your next event, call 706.202.0516, DM him at @DrSchempp or visit his website www.PerformanceMattersInc.com