Context Interpreters

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I watched a Creative Mornings talk by Alan Webber today. Webber was the co-creator of one of my favourite business magazines – Fast Company. His talk was on the importance of context over content. He argues that context not content is king in a world battling information overload. People need help to make sense of the content they are consuming.

Webber’s talk got me thinking about the role of context interpreters such as Malcolm Gladwell, Maria Popova, Austin Kleon etc. These are folks who help others make sense of the world. They do the hard work of filtering, interpreting and providing context for the complex information.

Good context interpreters tend to be bibliophiles, curators, deep thinkers, content synthesisers and effective storytellers.

The following quotes by Malcolm Gladwell in a 2006 New York Times piece by Rachel Donadio titled ‘The Gladwell Effect’ capture the essence of context interpreters.

 ‘People are experience rich and theory poor,’ the writer Malcolm Gladwell said recently. ‘People who are busy doing things — as opposed to people who are busy sitting around, like me, reading and having coffee in coffee shops — don’t have opportunities to kind of collect and organize their experiences and make sense of them.’


Gladwell said his goal in his first two books was simple: In a culture with too much information and not enough time, he offers ‘organizing structures’ for people’s lives.


I will encourage you to watch Webber’s talk and read Donadio’s piece.

Provide the names of some of your favourite context interpreters in the comments’ section.

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