A colleague was describing his journey, and attributed much of his success (rightly) to his core skills: including his creativity. I was resonating with his list until I got to ‘attention to detail’, and it got me to thinking.
Attention to detail is good, right? We want people to sweat the nuances, and I certainly am inspired by folks who do that. But there are times when I don’t want to be responsible for the details. To be sure, these are times when it doesn’t make sense to have me do the details. For example, once I’ve helped a client work out a strategy, the implementation really largely should be on them, and I might take some spot reviews (far better than just helping them start and abandoning them).
So I wondered about what the alternative would be. Now the obvious thought is lack of attention to detail, which might initially be negative, but could there be a positive connotation? What came to me was attention to connections. That is, seeing how what’s being considered might map to a particular conceptual model, or a related field. Seeing how it’s contextualized, and bringing together solutions. Seeing the forest, not the trees.
I’m inclined to think that there are benefits to those who see connections, just as there is a need for those who can plug away at the details. And it’s probably contextual; some folks will be one in one area and another in another. For example, there are times I’m too detail oriented (e.g. fighting for conceptual clarity), and times where I’m missing connections (particularly in reading the politics of a situation). And vice-versa, times when I’m not detail-0riented enough, and very good at seeing connections.
They’re probably not ends of a spectrum, either, as I’ve gone away from that in practical matters (hmm, wonder what that implies about the Big 5?). Take introvert and extrovert, from a learning perspective it’s about how well you learn on your own versus how well you learn with others, and you could be good or bad at each or both. Similarly here, you could be able to do both (as in my colleague, he’s one of the smartest folks I know who is demonstrably innovative and connecting as well as being able to sweat the details whether writing code or composing music).
Or maybe this is all a post-hoc justification for wanting to play out at the conceptual frontier, but I’m not going to apologize for that. It seems to work…