Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

27 May 2015

Attention to connections

Clark @ 8:16 AM

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…

1 Comment »

  1. This is interesting, and thank you for writing your thoughts. My off-the-cuff first reactions are:

    Attention to detail
    does not mean -obsession- with detail,
    nor -overattachment- to detail,
    …it just means paying attention to detail at the right times.

    Many people have a hard time knowing when to let go. They wind it up, set it off on its own, and then expect to keep guiding it. That doesn’t happen so much in complex and very social processes, nor in software I think.

    Attention to detail
    can coexist with
    a high tolerance for ambiguity.

    In other words, paying attention to detail does not mean you have to hunker down with only one possible solution — there may still be many possibilities.

    And not being critical of you here, but I would suggest that seeing connections isn’t necessarily at odds with attention to detail. You’re thinking that seeing connections requires letting go of detail — I don’t think so. They can be orthogonal, and it may take some practical discipline to keep them separate.

    Your article is a good thought-piece and thanks for your continuing musings.

    Comment by Sky — 27 May 2015 @ 2:04 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress