We often hear, “Just tell me the one thing!” Or, “I just want the step-by-step process!” But when you don’t know why and just “cut and paste” you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Sooner or later you will make a bad decision unless you grasp the overriding reason for the process.

If you can’t extrapolate the principles behind the processes, you will not recognize the disguised variations.

For instance, the principles behind paying bills is not to just to satisfy the invoices. The principles are to develop a good credit rating, improve relationships with your creditors, and stay in business. In our experience, we found 15% of the invoices were wrong! Still, we know of several bookkeepers who blindly paid invoices because they thought the process is their job, and all there is to their job!

We surmise that they too were rushing to complete the nitty gritty process of bill paying without understanding the reason behind it. Keep this in mind when training or learning.

Look at the big picture first, and then break it down from there. If you are learning, ask, “Why are we doing this?” If the answer doesn’t take you back to a clear understanding of how your business makes money, ask again until you get it. Don’t be quick to say “got it” when you don’t. It’s not enough to know the process if you don’t know the reason behind the process.

Today we can learn all kinds of processes without having a clue why or what the big picture is. You Tube is full of overly short lessons on how to do stuff, but they assume you know the why. You may also think you know the why. But if you want a rock-solid education that won’t show its limitation when you have to make that decision that wasn’t in the procedures, you’d better get the reason down cold first.

We always look for employees who can extrapolate. Without this skill, they can drive you crazy with ‘’Like what, like what?” as they demand more and more examples. In fact, if they make a mistake, they will tell you that you did not give that particular example. But it’s the principle behind the example that is the real lesson. If you want your people to really “get it,” you must spend the time to make sure they see the correlation between the examples.

The definition of extrapolation is: to use known facts as the starting point from which to draw inferences or conclusions about something unknown. Here are three ways to identify and improve extrapolation learners:

  1. At the Interview. Ask them the reasons behind the processes they were responsible for on their last job. Listen for over simplifications, and reasons that don’t tie into the big picture. Ask them how and why they solved a new problem based on their understanding of the reason for a process they were taught.
  2. During The Training. After they have a gotten a process down, give them a situation you haven’t discussed and see if they can noodle it out on their own. If they can, you have successfully communicated the “Why.”
  3. On the Job. Watch for misconceptions or shortsighted assumptions about the “Whys” in their work and in their queries. Listen for questions that show they don’t understand the big picture. Spend the time to show them how they can make better choices if they understand the “Why.”

It is a big picture world out there, so remove the blinders you put on your people when you  just give them “the one thing” and  “the step-by-step process.”

Who Are We.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse in 1986, to the board room of E&J Gallo, where they successfully sold their brand in 2005. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful and help corporations achieve entrepreneurial cultures to engage and empower their people.

Currently they travel the world keynoting at universities, corporations, conferences and symposiums. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals; along with being FOX News Radio Network’s Workplace Culture Experts. They are also the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Visit their popular brand building site at www.thebrandauthority.net. To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact info@thebarefootspirit.com.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders