Friday, April 21, 2006

Learning to Listen through Technology

Learning as Conversation

So we've gone through a few disciplines that together can be used for sustainable innovation and creative thinking in business. Learning, innovation, and marketing all find their best model in conversation. Everything's connected -- so how can you maximize your ability to listen and be heard?

Speaking of Listening

Nancy White makes an excellent point: in a business world where email is the norm, where websites are a competitive necessity, where IM is used by almost everyone, why is there no training in electronic communication? After all, poor use of these tools is creating a steep rise in the number of people who lose their jobs, the budgets squandered through poor use, and the money left on the table.

Not Just For Geeks

Anyone can use online communication tools. The logistics might intimidate, but they're easier to use than they first appear.

The real challenge is conceptual, not technical: to understand the unique value proposition of each and how they can be used together or separately to achieve a paticular goal. In fact, newcomers often bring key perspectives to original business models that insiders sorely lack.

What Non-Geeks Bring to the Table

Training can mitigate technical understanding, but the rest requires old fashioned trial and error. Different communication challenges require customized approaches and the ability to listen both intellectually and emotionally.

This might sound like a woo woo technique, but HR departments spend billions teaching just this very simple tenet, albeit off-line:

Everyone is slightly different. They listen differently, interpret differently, bring their own working styles to the table.

Remembering that -- and figuring out how to connect or hear employees with different styles -- is generally accepted as a management necessity.

Working Groups: Strategies for Differences in Temperment and Skill Levels

Nancy White has a great deal of experience mitigating challenges with groups comrpised of unlike minds (and what group isn't?).

An example: those who type quickly are usually more comfortable with IM than those who don't. Slow typers often (literally) can't get a word in edgewise -- among the chatters whose fingers fly across the keyboard.

To combat this, every project -- or company -- requires a protocol. An elipses is one solution she found. Those who type slowly can put one (. . . ) after a few words to demonstrate more is coming. This does two things:

1. It signals to others that they need to listen further. It slows down the discussion so that the rest of the group can forget what THEY have to say in an effort to find out what a colleague is saying next.
2. It also allows time for the slow typer to finish a sentence.

Another Example

White found is the intimidation factor technology often presents.

Once in a training session, a trainee expressed frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed by learning the tool. Nancy suggested that he pull up a website that played harp music -- and then that everyone in the group bring up the same site.

White reports that the rhythm and quality of the interaction among the group changed completely once they were all listening to the same music. Not only did it soothe the group but it gave them something visceral in common.

From that point, White has asked each member of remote groups to present a favorite piece of music. It imbues a surprising kind of intimacy in a working group that might not otherwise meet.

More on listening and how we hear online in the next post.

1 comment:

natalie shell said...

I stumbled on your blog and read this post - I have had exactly the same conversation with a friend and colleage in Australia, who is an email and web communication specialist. Why is there no training? I have written a few rants on the whole concept of different medium and how they are shaping us...and also what I am calling "media mis-management" a seeming inability (by myself at least) to use to appropriate media for the particular thing I am trying to communicate. Are there people doing this in NY? I would be very interested to find them and have a (face-face!) chat. thanks for the reminder on this...Natalie