The Power of a Funnel

When I saw this writing prompt today, I was perplexed and even amused. What could be inspirational about an ordinary funnel?

I looked at the definition of the word to see if there might be something I was overlooking. Nope. Pretty much the same image I had in my mind.

“a tube or pipe that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, used for guiding liquid or powder into a small opening.”

That is the definition of the word as a noun, an object, a thing. I do believe there is a more interesting aspect of the word when looked at as a verb. To funnel something has a much broader, much richer, more diverse application.

A very popular use of the word in recent years that I have seen is around marketing and sales. There are many advertisements and guides who want to sell you their insight on how to create a sales or marketing funnel to grow your business.

Entire businesses and technology tools have been built for and around this concept of the word. The idea of being able to take a large seemingly homogenous collection and filter it down to a smaller, meaningful and targeted sub-group has generated not only much interest, but also much economic power.

I am not much of a salesman or marketing guru. Nothing wrong about those careers it’s just not my cup of tea.  There are some other interesting twists on the idea of being able to “funnel” something that I do come across as well.

As technology has evolved, especially with regard to raw computing power, we have an ever-increasing ability to process larger and larger sets of data – larger funnels. This now even has its own market – called “Big Data”.  I think we are only at the very early stages of where this will take us, but the mouth of the funnel is getting incredibly large and while being able to get meaningful data out of the small end in amazingly fast speeds. In this sense we have a “data funnel” like never before. This will create some challenging ethical issues for our and the next generation to wrestle with.

I wonder if we should also think about how to “funnel” other strategic areas of our working lives? For example, how can an organization create a funnel or pipeline of quality candidates?

Or how about our project portfolios? We always have more demand then we do bandwidth. How do we create a meaningful funnel to help ensure the projects we do choose to work on are the ones with the most value and payback?

For those that live in the mid-west, I am sure a funnel can have a much more terrifying connotation – in the form of a tornado. I hope I never have to deal with one of those!