Learning to ignore the noise is critical if you want to survive. One of my best mentors and previous bosses always said “it’s just noise” and I quickly learnt that learning to ignore the noise is critical if you want to make progress in anything you do in your personal or professional life.
Learning to listen to what is going on in the company and identify what is actually really important is an important skill. Too many people go from one thing to another, fighting one battle then another into a continually exhausting routine. But the sad reality is that nothing really changes.
The firefighting is the noise so we have to stop listening to the daily chatter and flavour of the month and look for the macro narrative that is under the surface.
When Francis Crick was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering, along with James Watson, the double-helix structure of DNA, he was asked what is takes to win the Nobel Prize. Crick simply responded with “Oh, it’s very simple. My secret had been I know what to ignore”.
So when it comes to changing an existing product or process, or designing a new service or product, learning what to ignore helps you to identify what really matters. Customer feedback is full of “noise” and learning to distill it, be as close as possible to the customer, can help understand the different between the simple vent and the golden nugget that will actually make a difference.
So next time you are listening to someone explain a problem, really listen. Turn the ears on and try to identify and ignore the noise. Look for throwaway phrases as those phrases often highlight something much deeper and more fundamental than the initially “noise”. It’s the expression of the underlying pain.
It takes practise, but our attention, energy and time are in short supply, so learning to focus on what really matters will make a real difference.