Invitation: How Distillation Helps with Decision Making

As many of you know, I am an NPR addict. Over the holidays I listened to Francis Ford Coppola talking about movie making on “Fresh Air” and was struck by the following idea:

Mr. Coppola said that he distilled every movie he made into a one-word theme—that this helped when he was faced with making thousands of decisions all day everyday.

For example, he noted, “Succession” was the one-word theme for “The Godfather”; “Privacy” was the word he chose for his movie, “The Conversation.”

How can this idea help you?

Here’s one example:

I was working today with a client who—due to time constraints– had to distill a three-page speech into one page of bullet points. As you can imagine, there was a lot of discussion around what should go and what had to stay.

How did we solve it? I told her, “Ultimately, your goal is to invite the audience to contribute their ideas—to solicit their involvement– right?” and she agreed with that.

At this point, I mentioned Mr. Coppola’s idea and we decided her ‘word’ for the speech was “Invitation,” after which we removed anything that didn’t land as an invitation.

As you can imagine, this helped with the editing process.

So if you are facing a complex project—anything from putting together a Power Point presentation to planning your daughter’s wedding—and feeling daunted at the hundreds of decisions that need to be made, I recommend picking your own one-word theme to guide you through the process.