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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Meaning Before Details


I’m preparing for our flagship experience, The For Impact Boot Camp. Part of the ritual includes re-reading some clippings and materials — including a chapter on the subject of ATTENTION from Brain Rules. John Medina goes into the neuroscience of how we pay attention, engage and learn.

Here’s a powerful nugget from that reading:

The brain processes meaning before details. Providing the gist, the core concept, first [is] like giving a thirsty person a tall glass of water. And the brain likes hierarchy. Starting with general concepts naturally leads to explaining information in a hierarchical fashion. You have to do the general idea first. And then you will see [a] 40% increase in understanding.”

This nugget (and the science explained in the book) helps to explain why the Altitude Framework is such a powerful communication framework. The Altitude Framework along with the Engagement Tool provide a visual orientation and hierarchy… moving from meaning to details.

This is also a great reminder that one of the most powerful questions we can ask someone is their WHY…. It creates full engagement around the THEIR meaning. If you can then attach every detail of the conversation to their WHY then you will have full attention.

In an educational setting (like Boot Camp) this becomes an important teaching principle. Give ONE concept and use a lot of details to support ONE idea. We then support with a story because stories are rich with meaning.