When you think of the word ‘chunking,' you may have visions of yourself after the holiday season. While that may be a conversation you need to have in the privacy of your mind, chunking usually means to break information down into manageable pieces.
We often do this with everyday activities. When you bake and cook holiday meals, you assemble ingredients to make the final product. As a leader, you should be breaking down information into smaller pieces so that people can get a better picture of the desired result.
Breaking up complex ideas into manageable pieces is important to be an effective leader
Chunking is often used in education, to help children break down big ideas into smaller pieces that are easier to process. Chunking is useful for nearly every subject in school, such as reading complex literature, understanding theories in science, and steps for math problems. Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean that you should shelve this strategy.
When information is chunked, your memory will improve. The exact mechanism is unclear, however. A group of researchers attempted to explain why chunking has a positive effect on how we think. These scientists suggest a link between the chunking mechanism and synaptic plasticity, or the ability of synapses (connections in your brain) to strengthen or weaken with time. Using a model built of circuits, they found that chunking doesn’t require as much synaptic plasticity (Guoqi, 2016).
Plastic what? What’s that have to do with my brain?
People who suffer from diseases such Alzheimer’s have decreased synaptic plasticity. The neurons and synapses no longer work efficiently. Think of the synapses as little biceps. If you use them regularly, they are nice and healthy. But if you neglect them, or the brain is diseased, the synapses start to wither. But chunking has been shown to be helpful even for people who suffer from brain disorders.
Have you ever attended a workshop or talk by someone who was much more knowledgeable about a subject? Or when people assume that you already understand information that you’ve never seen before? It’s frustrating, and if you speak up and say something, you might get a condescending sigh or an eye roll. Don’t be one of these people. You want to communicate in a meaningful manner, not run people off with a snobby attitude. Break down information and don’t assume that newcomers already know old information—they simply may not have seen it yet.
Chunking will improve your communication and collaboration skills
Employees don’t want to work with leaders that cannot communicate well. Breaking down information into smaller chunks is necessary for effective leadership. Leaders who can communicate efficiently and pass on information without drama will also be better collaborators.
While the word ‘chunking’ may sound awkward, it’s a useful tool for leaders. The can improve your communication and collaboration skills, ensuring that you are prepared for the challenges of the twenty-first century. Don’t be left behind like last year’s fruitcake. Instead, take the initiative and become the leader that thrives in this Imagination Age.
Li, G., Deng, L., Wang, D., Wang, W., Zeng, F., Zhang, Z., … Shi, L. (2016). Hierarchical Chunking of Sequential Memory on Neuromorphic Architecture with Reduced Synaptic Plasticity. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 10, 136. http://doi.org/10.3389/fncom.2016.00136