In business, the relationship between “general” and “technical” is key to success. Most times people get it wrong. In essence, it’s what I fix. Focusing on content that contains high levels of technical, scientific or innovative detail.

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Here’s what I mean - the theory>

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By definition, communication is about someone sending a message and someone else receiving that message.

But in practice, it’s also key that the message contains information and that that information is not just delivered but understood.

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Therefore, before the message can be sent, it has to be formatter and encoded into words, sounds, visuals. 

Once received, the decoding and proper recognition of the message format has to happen before the contents can be understood.

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So let’s get practical>

Imagine a conference room. Nice, glass surface table, 20 feet long, large windows instead of outer walls, lots of space and natural light. A huge whiteboard at the narrow end of the table.

In the room are Jane, John and Hank. John is head of global brand marketing, Hank is Director of Research and Jane runs the place. “The place” being a regional pharmaceutical company with a billion in annual revenue.

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And on your side it’s well you, the engineer or genetic researcher, your sales lead and an assistant. 

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Out of over 3.000+ ongoing clinical trials for gene based cancer immunotheraphy, your team is working on getting funding for 3.001 and you’ve uncovered something unique and remarkable, but also hard to fully appreciate for all those who have not just spent 3 years on your team working on this.

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Now in this conversation, you want Jane, John and Hank to receive your message and and understand that you have some hot shit on the table and they need it, want it, will wire the money for it.

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Jane, John and Hank would like to have hot shit because that’s good for business and it saves peoples lives. But they need to recognize your ideas as such, sort it out, feel safe and confident that it’s good for them. 

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But the problem is 

a) you’re not the only one peddling magic solutions, 

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b) you’re not selling a pill with proved results but a scientific and technical conjecture that needs lots of money fed into to eventually generate high impact years from now and 

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c) you’re trying to condense 5 years of work into a meeting.

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Here’s where the general vs technical part comes in. 

Jane, John and Hank all understand medicine, health, research to some extent. They make a living out of it and have lots of technical details. 

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But your team has way more technical details than they are used to.

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So the more general the conversation is, the easier it is for John, Jane an Hank to follow and participate. The safer they feel. The more technical it gets, the less relaxed they feel.

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Of course if you would give them a Gene Theraphy for Morons type presentation, they would resent it and feel this is a waste of time. 

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Equally, if you would just dump on them raw research data, they would equally not recognize the opportunity you are presenting.

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I think this is pretty obvious. So why do people still like and prefer technical?

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Well to some extent, for the presenter, technical is very safe. 

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You use it as a shield, lay out the data, go over the process. If the other side expresses objections or critique, they are really objecting to data and process, not you. So you’re safer and your ego isn’t in for a potential beating.

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When you go beyond data, technology, facts, you’re putting yourself and your opinion out there. Without the fact and data parachute fully covering you.

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To think about it another way:

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general communication is oil and technical the mechanics of what you are trying to say.

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Too much oil and the engine chokes. Too little oil and it overheats and melts.

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Figuring out the best ratio between the two is key to success, regardless what you’re trying to say or whom you address.

By Goran Tomsic — January 21, 2019

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