Friday 18 September 2015

What is better: depth or breadth?

Two years ago, I attended an exhilarating networking session initiated by Kevin O'Leary at Optimum Talent. Twelve people from diverse industries and backgrounds were invited to share their thoughts on three questions:
  • How are you making a difference in the universe?
  • What is your passion?
  • What is your personal formula for success?
It was a powerful experience and I was blown away by people's stories and ambitions. One-on-one coffee meetings afterwards extended my feelings of inspiration and good fortune. 

Last week, I attended a two-year check-up session again hosted by Kevin. Most original members attended, with a few sending regrets due to schedule conflicts. 

Hearing people's updates was just as stimulating as the first session. Everyone had progressed and were working on new opportunities or challengesprogress always brings change.

I shared a question I have recently been asking myself: how do I maximize the number of people I can benefit from my change experience? It is inspired by a quote from John Baker, founder and CEO of D2L: "My eureka moment was recognizing that education was the best way to multiply my impact on the world." What was my best way?

I explained that I now share my knowledge through consulting assignments, my book, course and speaking engagements. For the next 10 or 15 years I could continue doing so and not maximize my potential to help others.

Someone suggested that I flip my goal on its head: Why not go deep instead of going broad? I could make a greater impact by helping fewer people in more meaningful ways. Another person supportively added that this approach reminded him of the 1,000 true fans theory where the goal was to cultivate ongoing relationships with 1,000 people who highly value your 'art'. After a speaking engagement, instead of having brief conversations with many people, why not have deeper conversations over time with a few of them?

This healthy perspective wasn't what I was expecting and sent me back to the drawing board. I have been discussing the benefits of depth and breadth all week. One friend said that breadth is less risky while another opined that depth has more possibilities.

Perhaps the best approach is to do both as opportunities arise. There will be times when broad communication is most helpful and others when in-depth, one-on-one discussions have greater value. If so, then spotting the opportunities is a skill I need to sharpen.

I wonder if most people have a version of the depth and breadth choice to make. It might define how they make a difference in the universe.


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