What is, “The Power of Venn?”

My father was a mathematician, a professor of mathematics, a department chair, and a logician who solved algorithms. But this apple fell far from that tree. I have never been gifted in mathematics, but I have always been fascinated by the visual dynamism of mathematics.

Venn diagrams have become a component of my personal and professional life. They are a wonderful way to analyze situations and problem solve. They are a visual way to map out similarities, differences, and identify commonalities. For example, if I have a problem to solve, I draw that problem into a circle that is unique and stands on its own. If my focus is how to influence a positive outcome in solving that problem, I create a list of what those influencing factors are and each of those factors has its own unique circle. These circles can vary in size based on the level of importance or ability to influence the outcome. I then start placing those circles within, around, or touching my problem circle. This helps me visualize my problem and see all the factors that might have the ability to impact a positive outcome. Side note, if some of your circles represent people you will come to find that the person with the greatest ability to influence a positive outcome might not be at the highest level of your organization.

As I have matured and advanced professionally, the daily deluge of tasks, responsibilities, and decisions that I must make can be difficult to manage. Many years ago, in my reading, I happened upon a black and white sketch of a Venn diagram created by Carl Richards. It was simple but crystal clear and it has been one of my many compasses in life.

There are two circles of equal size sitting side by side that slightly intersect. In one circle are things that matter, in the other circle, are things that I can control, and where these two circles intersect is where I focus most of my energy. Focus to me equates to energy. Every day when I wake up, I have a full bar of energy and I have the power to choose how that energy gets depleted. I can easily let others deplete my energy or I can choose how that energy gets used. So, when I lose my way or I am unsure, I ask myself, is this something that matters? Yes. Is this something I can control? No. Then the answer to these questions makes clear that expending an inordinate amount of energy on that thing will be a zero-sum game for me and my energy bar.

This concept is important for being an independent contributor, manager, leader, teammate, parent, partner, etcetera. It is essential in helping me understand what is needed to effect change. It also puts me in the driver’s seat as the responsible party for my life. The Venn diagram moves me away from being the victim in my narrative and gives me data points to be my own decision-maker. My energy bar can still be depleted in any given day, but I understand that when it is, it most likely is because I was focused on something that mattered that I had no control over, or I was focused on something that I had control over but really was not of paramount importance at that moment. Fighting against these tides can expend valuable energy at the expense of something or someone else.

I have been sharing the concept of Venn diagrams with people whom I coach and mentor and have included the topic in several of my professional presentations. Venn diagrams can be applied to almost anything in life. Do you Venn? If you don’t, give a Venn diagram a try and let me know how it goes!

To download my free Power of Venn guide, go to www.inquisitiveleader.com.

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