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Context Matters.

by | Mar 17, 2022 | Business, Strategy

Getting together

Much of what we wrestle to understand about business, or life in general come to that, can seem complicated. We have to gather knowledge, hone skills and build experience to build the value that we bring to our work. As we do that, we gradually become unconsciously competent as our expertise in it develops. It’s when we move to intentional mastery that we have to unpack that competence, and surface it again to our conscious mind. To apply mastery in new situations needs a depth of understanding, not just of the facts, but of the context in which what we know applies. Imagine how important the context of the moment is for, say, a surgeon, or a pilot, when something happens unexpectedly.

Yet so much of what we are presented with today is stripped entirely of context, or is deliberately vague about it. Partly that is because of the rapid nature, and shorthand, of social media which has pervaded so many aspects of life. Partly it is because of the ability to spread and share information at the speed of thought, but only if it is in snippets, 240 characters. 

Clarity of understanding needs clarity of context. If two people in a conversation have had the same experience, for example attending a concert or other event, the context for them is known, and the need to clarify it to each other is minimal. However, if we are sharing thoughts about that experience with others whose context is different, then we need to provide more of the context for our core message to be clear, for it not to accidentally mislead. 

Much has been made of ‘fake news’ in recent years, not least because of the rise of political leaders who rely on minimising the context in which their views may have relevance. They do this deliberately to mislead. They do it often to rally supporters by convincing them they should be outraged too. It’s the “outrage” that makes the (false) message spread more widely, more quickly.

Masters provide context when it is needed. They take time to give the background, to share the nuance, to understand and explain the subtleties using plain language that those without relevant knowledge understand, before providing the conclusions of their thinking. As I browse my social media, I can easily find the ramblings and ravings of those who share content without context in order then to take offence at it. Invariably, when I dig under the skin of their ramblings, there’s either no truth to it or it’s an exploded piece of hearsay which, in context, would barely warrant a mention. 

If you want to be seen as the master of what you do, get clarity of the contexts in which you do it. Gather an understanding of them, and be ready to explain them to others seeking the value your mastery brings. When you speak up, and provide the context that others need, then they will see the true value of your words and feel the gravitas with which you say them. 


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Written by: William Buist - all rights reserved.