In many scientific fields, we talk about the signal-to-noise ratio.  If some kind of data or power transmission is happening, we want to receive the full signal with as little interference or other ambient nonsignal (noise) as possible.  Therefore, the higher the signal-to-noise ratio, the better.  That means you are getting what you want and your equipment is working well.

Elon Musk (Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO) spoke last month at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business graduation.  He provides some business advice playing off the signal-to-noise ratio concept (Erin Zlomek, ed., Commencement Speeches 2014, Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/2/14–6/8/14, p. 23):

Focus on signal over noise.  A lot of companies get confused; they spend money on things that don’t actually make the product better.

The notion here is to put your resources where they will most effectively produce results.  Know what those areas are and keep your focus on them.  Otherwise, you risk diluting your time and talent.  Spending money is easy.  Spending money wisely and strategically is something different.

I agree with Musk.  Focus on the signal while ignoring the noise.

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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