Pick a number between 1 and 23. Any number, it really doesn’t matter. Now go to Twitter and do a quick scan of your feed and see how long it will take you to find headlines like the following using your number:
- 16 Secrets For Shopping At Target That Will Blow Your Mind
- 17 steps to increase the conversion of your checkout process
- How to Write a Tweet: 8 Formulas to Get You Started.
It won’t take long. I found those inside of 2 minutes. Social media is full of such wisdom packed into catchy headlines designed to distract and engage you. There is so much advice that it will make your head spin. I don’t know where to start to improve myself, my productivity, my social skills and 1,327 other aspects of my life I had not even known I was deficient in. Content like this is like cotton candy, tasty and quick, but gone quickly with no lasting nutritional value, only some sticky lips. It’s too much to absorb. I can’t remember 16 secrets, and I am not going to print out and carry a secret cheat sheet with me when I shop at Target. There’s a reason why phone numbers are only 7 digits. Conventional wisdom says average person can hold a set of about 7 digits in his/her working memory. Actually even that may be overstating the limit. Research originally suggested that our working memory cut off point was around the seven items mark. However scientists are revising that idea, when adding the limitation of no memory tricks, such as repeating items over and over or grouping them together. For them, the average cap does seem to hover around the 3 or 4 memory slot mark. While I can probably remember 3 or 4 things at once, what I really would prefer is to have to remember only one thing. I would like to know “the single most important tip”, and I would like to know more about why it is the single most important tip. Armed with that information I can go out and slay the dragon. This may seem counterintuitive, but limiting the focus makes it more difficult for content creators to create. It’s much easier to scour around and curate 16 pieces of advice from experts which are a mile wide and an inch deep. 15 minutes on Google will give you that. You don’t really have to make any judgment about their efficacy; you don’t even have to rank them. Just slap them out there and hit the publish button. What is much harder ( and much more useful) is to put a stake in the ground, declare that this tip out of all the other tips is the most valuable, and then defend your case in depth with logic, proof points, examples and other support. You have to think through your presentation and the structure of your argument. Consider this: When you are sitting in a meeting which do you find you respect most – the person who sees things from all sides, carefully weighs all 17 opinions, and ultimately can’t make a decision without consensus from everyone, or the person who speaks his or her mind passionately in an authoritative way to get his point across. I’ll take the person with the strong opinion every time. Even if I don’t agree with them, I will most likely remember his argument long after the meeting has ended.