Comm Series #8: Persecuted By An Integer

2 Mar

In 1956 George Miller opens a classic article titled “The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing Information” stating the above.

People mentally store and retrieve information in “chunks,” and the maximum size of a chunk is seven plus/minus two. Thus if you want to have people remember what you say and write, simply follow the “KISS and chunk rule.” Keep It Short and Simple and make sure that your chunks do not exceed seven to nine. Also odd numbers seem to be better.  Think of all the ideas we organize in 3s, 5s, 7s and 9s.

If we say or write a “chunk,” others can easily remember and act on it. Many managers are ineffective because they practice “information overload.” When you communicate too much information others will chunk the information and choose the topics of interest to them, this is how much miscommunication happens.

Large amounts of data can be reduced to smaller chunks and organized hierarchically. The next time you read a newspaper or report or hear a speaker, ask yourself What are the main points in this communication? Once you identify them, recalling the information will be much easier.

Think about ways to apply these principles. The use of “bullets” in written communications can make letters, memos or reports much more effective. In oral communications, define the chunk of information and organize supporting material around it. When in a meeting, look for the important “take-aways.” Remember, the ability to chunk is a measure of cognitive efficiency.

For more in-depth go to chunking.

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