Facts Are Not Enough

On a recent flight, I was reading the Heath brothers excellent Made To Stick. Though the scenario in the book has to do with journalism, the lesson struck a chord with me in my own line of work (Enterprise Architecture).

The journalism professor tells the students that they must write the lead for a newspaper story. He goes on to layout all of the facts:

Kenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the entire high school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium on new teaching methods. Among the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college president Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown.

The students then go on to arrange and rearrange the given facts into a single sentence that would serve as the lead for the story. Then the professor opened their eyes by pointing out the real lead of the story — one that the students had missed by merely dealing with the facts. The real lead was “There will be no school next Thursday”.

Wham! By merely reporting the ‘facts’ the students missed the real point of what was going to happen. This made me think about how this can happen in my own field. Many a design review meeting is spent documenting and sorting through all of the technical minutiae but it is the architect’s job to understand the implications and possible risks/impacts of each of the details and decisions made. While certainly a big component, all of the technical details must be placed into the context of the Enterprise to tell the whole story and to truly understand the ‘point’.

I am finding that there is quite a lot in this book that can be applied to Enterprise Architecture (and really any field where you need to get the attention of an audience and keep them engaged in your message — particularly when it is something they consider to be dry and uninteresting).

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