Successful business ownership is all about gathering information, picking through it to decide what makes sense, and making sound decisions based on all available data. Synthesizing information in this way can be a difficult task to master, but a little time and practice can make you an expert in no time.
Synthesis is the final step in critical thinking — after you analyze, evaluate, and organize information from different sources, this step requires you to put it all together. Many people struggle with this step, but really all you are trying to do is select the best answer, or combination of answers, from a wide range of data. In fact, the odds are that you do this on a regular basis anyway, whether you are aware of it or not.
As you may have noticed, the internet is flooded with all sorts of conflicting information on just about any subject. Trying to find the best answer by surfing the web requires that you consider the merit of a variety of sources and choose for yourself which idea makes the most sense to you. You might find yourself coming up with an entirely different answer than those you read about…this is synthesizing.
Essentially what is happening is that by examining and evaluating a number of sources, you are identifying consistencies and relationships between and among the data. With these connections, you are better able to create a new idea that can be supported by the various knowledge you have picked up along the way. Not everyone will come up with the same solution, and your own solution may not always turn out to be right, but by starting with a wealth of data you improve the odds of missing something important.
In the context of entrepreneurship, synthesis is a critical skill for every step, from planning your business idea to growing your company. Most first-time entrepreneurs do not have a complete toolshed of basic business knowledge, much less the details of their own product, market, and competition. Gaining this knowledge is essential, but very little of it has clear right and wrong answers. In any type of business, there are hundreds of small decisions to make along the way, each of which has the potential to make or break the entire venture.
For example, a critical portion of business planning is developing your marketing plan. In order to create an effective marketing plan, it is essential to study the basic tenets of marketing, the various routes for getting your message out, and the best ways to convince your target market that your product or service is the way to go. Search for “Marketing Plan” on the internet, and you will get hundreds of results, millions of ideas and opinions, and several dozen sales messages telling you that they hold the “secret” to effectively marketing your product. The reality is that there is no right answer for every business, so you must review and analyze a multitude of information, then come up with a plan that incorporates the best of these ideas that will be most effective for your business.
The key to effective synthesis is to collect enough data to understand the fundamental concepts. Use a variety of sources and mediums to develop your knowledge base — read articles and books, talk about your ideas with those in the know, watch what happens around you. Look for opinions that differ from your own to ensure you have considered all different perspectives. The more information you have to draw from, the easier it will be to make informed, justifiable decisions to keep your startup on track and on the road to success.