We Need to Get Out More


It happens in every company, eventually the internal dynamics become more important than what happens with the customer, what she wants to talk about, what he's thinking about. In fact, we often (still) prefer the detached rooms of research to a human contact.

We over-engineer feedback because asking eyeball to eyeball, or observing behavior directly would be too simple. Yet there is no substitute for seeing what is going on in context, as situations develop. Which is why we learn the most during a crisis, when we are called to respond, or are forced to act on something.

It happens at conferences as well. Sometimes these seem the modern equivalent of rock band tours the same groupies going from event to event. While there's nothing wrong with having one long conversation with people we perceive as like-minded, those who live and breathe the same issues for example, in the same environment, this is not exactly what happens.

We could have a conversation, but all we have are comments and we have unlearned the art of conversation. People (mostly online) don't converse, they comment.

In Dialogue, the Art of Thinking Together William Isaacs says conversation is the white space, the place where people turn together to deliberate, and weigh out, to suspend judgment (listening without resistance), explore the underlying causes, rules, and assumptions to get to deeper questions and framing of problems, and to generative dialogue that invents unprecedented possibilities and new insights, producing collective flow.

Conversation as dialogue is shared inquiry, which requires us to be completely present as it is happening at (at least) three levels. Its purpose is not to move toward discussion, which reflects the tendency to think alone. In a discussion, people see themselves as separate from each other. Conversation with the right intent, or influence, is about turning together, connecting.

Conversation is the opportunity

You don't get that from commenting alone.

The forward movement in awareness and growth happens when we encounter differing views, different ways of seeing the world especially when those views are those of paying customers or potential partners for business opportunities.

We should not shy away from looking at the world through their eyes and experience, and consider the challenges, too. It can be uncomfortable, it can get down right frustrating at times. But that's where we can make the most difference.

The paradox of our age is that although we are all connected, our culture continuously highlights and encourages individual credit for accomplishments, rather than recognizing collective contributions. Which is how we end up with unwritten rules of management that started in engineering.

We should not be afraid to recognize the contributions of many. Rather, we should learn to recognize them, be in conversation with the ideas and the people who carry them forward to take them to the proverbial next level.

Good ideas come from somewhere. We have the ability to build on them as countless writers, scientists, engineers, and managers have done to bring us to where we are. 

We need to get out more —of our comfort zone, industry, work environment, circle of acquaintances, way of thinking, etc. find different perspectives to look at problems, and be in conversation with them. In the absence of something to value, we end up selecting from what is available instead of broadening our options.


[image via Pixelmaniac]