You will see this routine quite often in product demonstrations, when a company is showing off it’s technological prowess. From microprocessors to BMW engines, people love to know how all the parts work together, or at least feel like they do.
Simply, this routine describes the whole of a complex image, idea, text, in a coherent narrative, then it dives in and shows what the individual parts are. It can show ownership, it can show belonging, status, passion, tribal status, education,
The parts and the whole can help craft one’s identity in a very strong way. For example, Budweiser is attempting to replace, well, “Budweiser” with “America” On their bottles:
I don’t know enough about the Budweiser clientele, sales, etc to judge whether this will work, but this is a BRILLIANT use of “the parts and the whole.”
The whole: America
The parts: If drinking beer, Budweiser is the brand.
Message: America drinks Budweiser.
Simple, and it makes a very bold statement about one’s belonging.
Marketers should be careful to put themselves in their customer’s point of view when they start using this routine. This routine is best implemented when you are looking to educate your customer on something that is complex, it acts as a filter for all the information that you will have.
An interesting insight: people are usually comfortable to not know how, until you show them that by learning the parts they can get some benefit or reward. Physicians study the systems of the body, down to the finest minutiae of detail, because they know there is a reward for knowing how the parts and the whole work together. Boeing is extremely proud of it’s carbon fiber wings on the 787, because its a part that makes the whole (cheaper aircraft to operate) possible.
In fact, there are two questions best associated with the two parts of this routine. The “what” corresponds to the whole, and the “how” corresponds to the parts.
In fact, this is perhaps the most effective strategy for those who sell online courses like Michael Hyatt, Ray Edwards, etc. They show you what you get (the whole) and then they tell you how (the parts). Their offer is, “here is the whole, don’t you want to know what the parts are that make up this whole? For very little money, I can teach you this valuable information”
The human brain finds this irresistible; it can’t not know “how” something works. Ask any scientist (mad or otherwise) and they will tell you their motivation is to understand how things work, how evolution works, how a reaction takes place. Philosophers and theologians also ask “how” (what is a reasonable way I can describe existence) in response to “what” (I exist; or do I?).
The parts and the whole are especially effective when you have information overload. The key is to know where to start. This will depend on your audience and their needs. If you don’t have a relationship with someone, the best place to start is actually the parts, to ask the question, hey, do you see how your ___ is actually part of a whole?
- Do you see how your [ROTH IRA] is actually part of [FINANCIAL PEACE]?
- Do you know how [PENZOIL SYNTHETIC] is actually part of [LESS ENGINE BREAKDOWNS]
- If you start your day with [GRAPENUTS CEREAL] you will [HAVE A BALANCED BREAKFAST AND FEEL GOOD ALL DAY].
Each of these are just the parts, leading up to the whole.
On the other hand, when someone has a problem, they want to go from the whole to the parts.
- “Doctor, my head hurts!” “Oh, you have a gall bladder problem.”
- “I feel uncertain about my retirement” “Oh, let’s take a look at your 401k.
- “I want a new job and don’t know how to get there.” “Oh, let’s take a look at the process you are using.
The parts and the whole, are extremely useful for distilling big ideas into simple ones, and allowing you to go very deep. This is why a doctor can prescribe a medication, not because they know the molecular structure, but because they see the whole person, then they figure out the systems, then they figure out the reaction that will take place, then they know how things will work out. It’s seems so complex, and it is, but you can trust safely that the doctors know their stuff because they understand the parts and also the whole.
The brain is just built that way.