At some point in every workplace context, an individual will ask themselves: do I spend the next minute learning more on this topic that I know a lot about? Or on other topics that I know less about?

In general, the higher up (in hierarchy and often remuneration) in an organisation, the more an individual should have greater breadth on many topics than depth on one topic.

And the follow-on question is: but by spending time learning about other topics, I sacrifice knowledge on this one topic. So what is the correct balance?

A more senior person in my organisation suggested the following:

“The amount of detail you need is enough that you can influence the decision or perspective of the person or people you are communicating with.”

I think this is solid advice. The amount of required detail ultimately depends on what purpose that information is being used.


Dr Karl for the inaugural Fenner Lecture at Llewellyn Hall, ANU

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