What do jury instructions and dissertations have in common? The end result is incredibly narrow in focus.

When I served on a jury, I left the courtroom ready to hand over a “guilty” verdict for the defendant. In my mind, the evidence showed that he committed the crime. But the jury instructions we received were ultra-specific: for example, did the defendant send X number of harassing communications between X-Y date, etc. In the end, we could only convict him on two of the five counts because of the tight parameters.

When I wrote my dissertation, I was convinced that it would be something in the area of human resources. Ultimately, my research topic was Role Expectations and Predictions of Trends for Human Resource Development at Small, Private Colleges and Universities within the Southern Regional Education Board Area. If you had asked me at the start, I would not have been able to fathom that I would be this specific or that the whole study would hinge on just five research questions, but it wasn’t until I narrowed it down to this level that the real writing could begin.

Often, we spend time trying to manage an expansive interpretation of the problem when it would be better to dedicate our energy to reducing the issue to a far more minute level than we first anticipated. Unlike on television, it’s never a question of whether someone is guilty or not, rather did or didn’t he violate Statute XYZ(a). Research doesn’t tackle a whole subject area, but only a tiny sliver of it.

Consider the issues that loom large in your world — perhaps you would be better off by parsing them into small, specific bits and resolving them one component at a time. Moving to the narrow part of the funnel is where thinking morphs into action.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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