People are nebulous for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s rooted in laziness, concealment, or innocent ignorance. But to be successful in anything, you really need to be specific.
I was recently on the receiving end of a nebulous person and it irritated me so much I thought I’d unpack it here.
What makes certain businesses more successful and stick out? What makes star professionals stand out from the masses?
Of course, differentiation and uniqueness are key. But when you look at those who are winning versus those who aren’t, the key factor often is specificity. Ambiguity is the enemy.
Whether for a person, a small team or a company, being specific — in strategy, culture and operations — enables better outcomes across four key dimensions:
1. Surfacing the challenge. You must articulate and validate a worthwhile challenge to solve. You must identify the core pains and issues that really matter. Being specific means you can frame the challenge as a polarizing force to be overcome. Everything that follows will be better.
2. Attracting and rallying talent. Winning requires acquiring the best talent and rallying their efforts. By being more specific, you can attract the types of people who are most passionate about the challenge. You can channel time and energy to accomplish more things with fewer people; you also can solve challenges that otherwise wouldn’t get solved. Being specific also enables collaboration among diverse and disparate teams. If you want passionate team members on different continents to be effective, they’d better be working to overcome the same, precise challenge!
3. Planning, executing and measuring. Being specific enables you to better plan, execute and measure success. You can eliminate activities and measures that don’t matter, and channel time and resources to ones that do. Being specific enables you to know soonest when something is not working, so you can change quickly to a better course.
4. Recognizing success. Finally, when there is more specificity in culture and operations, key stakeholders are more likely to recognize and reward you for the very real problem you solved. This is true for employees, shareholders, partners and customers.
Specificity will create better outcomes. This concept is obvious. This is a reminder for the majority who forget.
This essay also appeared in MediaPost. Photo: spaceamoeba.