- Many people produce and publish insights with perspectives that are useful to you.
- In every vertical there are synthesizers, whose diverse perspectives can help you make sense of your world.
- Studying different perspectives both makes you more conversational and improves your credibility.
One of the reasons to read books is to soak up the author’s expertise, conserving both time and energy. Professional authors spend years, often decades, learning something well enough to write a book on the subject. They’re also passionate enough about mastering their subject to surpass the dabblers, poseurs, and charlatans. Key insights from their studies and their experience can be yours for a small amount of money and six or so hours of your time.
When you pay, say, $28 for a book, you are effectively buying ten thousand hours of the author’s time. That means for each hour the author spent learning something well enough to share it in some meaningful way, you’re paying 0.28 cents—and you thought the book was expensive! Of course, you’re not just paying for the physical book, but for what you can gain from it.
What if you could repeat this investment for other kinds of knowledge, like identifying insights or keeping up with information that might help you to better serve your clients, all while making yourself more valuable, more interesting, and more knowledgeable? Here is how to let other people do the research for you while you benefit from their expertise.
The Spectacular Synthesizers
A synthesizer is a person who creates a whole out of parts, weaving together something coherent. They tend to do a lot of research, reading widely so they can identify and recognize connections—even unlikely ones—between ideas and entire domains of thought. Synthesizers tend to publish their work, and because the internet runs on content, they often garner a lot of attention. But they also cite their sources, either through footnotes or hyperlinks, offering readers like you a goldmine for further reading. Much like a professional cyclist “drafts off” a competitor, riding closely behind them to match their speed without having to fight the same wind resistance, you can use these citations to take advantage of the synthesizer’s efforts. The point is not to steal someone else’s work, but to use it as a starting point for your own synthesis, so you can discover the trends and factors that will impact (or already do impact) your clients and your prospective clients.
People with Perspicuous Perspectives
Our brain structure makes it all too easy to easily find ideas we agree with while deleting the ones that run counter to our beliefs. When you are building your own perspective, you might find yourself cherry-picking facts and data that support what you believe to be true, something that will limit the value of your perspective. Instead, you want to follow synthesizers with different perspectives. Even though it can be a little difficult to get started, you want to find synthesizers with conflicting perspectives. The tougher it is to read something you disagree with, the more important it is that you understand why the writer has that opinion.
An easy-to-understand example is the stock market. Some very smart people, who’ve spent their whole careers studying the market, who are convinced that stocks are undervalued and that the market will rise in the short term. Other people, equally intelligent and equally studious, believe that the market is going to precipitously decline in short order. Making good decisions means understanding both perspectives and how each side formed their conclusions, before you decide when and how to invest.
Being valuable to your clients means sharing your recommendations based on your experience, your business acumen, and the expertise you develop in your field. Being able to share multiple perspectives will improve your credibility, since it shows that your understanding goes beyond ideas that match your own recommendation or serve your own interests.
Some Starter Synthesizers
My favorite synthesizer is Mary Meeker, formerly with Kleiner Perkins. Meeker synthesizes internet trends and releases an annual report. While I do recommend that you download it, don’t just copy her recommendations. Instead, read her analysis and follow her citations to the original information, so you can improve your perspective on e-commerce or dozens of other internet-based trends worth knowing. Regardless of your industry or the verticals you serve, there are synthesizers like Meeker out there. You want to identify them, follow their work, understand their perspectives, and then find out which other synthesizers play the Mr. Hyde to their Dr. Jekyll.
There are also larger organizations that act as synthesizers. The New York Times is a type of synthesizer, providing facts, data, and opinions. On the other side, you might look at The Wall Street Journal, which will share some of the same facts and data with a more open-market view than the Times. To add a global perspective, you might supplement both with The Economist.
My Feedly account has disparate sources that I find valuable, including my favorite source for business insights, CNBC. I watch CNBC when exercising in the morning and listen to it while driving. But the website is also useful. Because you are a salesperson, you are also a businessperson. You need spend as much time —or more—on business content as you do on Netflix, sports, or The Bachelor.
Do Good Work:
- How much time do you spend learning what you need to know to take perfect care of your clients by providing them with your perspective?
- Who do you read and follow to enrich your perspective, and who do you read that often has a perspective that is opposite yours?
- What are you doing to be conversational with the trends and factors that will impact your clients and their businesses?