Last Updated on January 18, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck
I am compelled to write this article because I am fascinated by a friend, physician, and fellow board member that has an incredible talent for listening and synthesizing complex and spirited discussions into a widely supported compromise and agreement. This skill is scarce in the business world. For those of you that know me, my style is more like a blunt instrument, and my friend’s ability continues to awe and inspire me to be a better listener.
Physicians have a fantastic ability to synthesize information. They combine patient symptoms with clinical knowledge and input from other patient care team members to develop a cohesive diagnosis and treatment plan.
As business leaders, learning to synthesize with a doctor’s precision can significantly benefit your organization.
What does it mean to synthesize ideas?
To start, what does “synthesize” mean? Dictionary.com defines it as “to form (a material or abstract entity) by combining parts or elements.” Synthesizing ideas is taking information from various sources and shaping it into a new thought. In essence, it is to connect the dots.
In business, this skill is part negotiation, compromise, recollection, patience, and listening comprehension. Therefore, it would be best to consider your team’s feedback, past outcomes, observations, and real-life experience to determine the best way forward.
Synthesizing ideas takes more time than simply throwing suggestions at the wall to see what sticks. Of course, there is a time and a place for both approaches, but in general, taking the time to slow down and synthesize will result in a more coherent, sophisticated, and comprehensive plan of action.
How do you synthesize?
Synthesis is essentially the “so what?” If analysis requires breaking down the data, synthesis determines why it matters. Here are a few ways to improve your workplace synthesis ability.
- Practice noticing patterns. Are there any themes that arise during a particular project? What do past attempts all have in common? When projects have gone well, what factors tend to drive that success? Noticing these patterns is the first step toward applying them.
- Go further than summarizing. The purpose of synthesis isn’t to translate but to build on a summary of ideas and create something new. So drive meetings and brainstorms forward by summarizing the ideas you’ve heard and pointing out your main takeaways from those ideas.
- Ask “why.” One way to tell if you’re synthesizing rather than just observing is to ask yourself, “why.” It’s not enough to watch from multiple sources that sales have been up. Why are they up? What’s working well? Does this follow any patterns from previous years? The “why” will take you from analysis to synthesis.
- Be a good listener. Make sure you’re comprehending what your team has to say. Pay attention during meetings, even when the information doesn’t directly concern you. You never know when a piece of information will become helpful for later synthesis.
Synthesis is a skill that only becomes more important as you grow in your career. The higher you are on the corporate ladder, the more people will value your insights. By honing this ability, you can build on your wisdom and become a priceless asset to your organization.
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