Always Try to Understand the Language of the Business, the Culture

Meet halfway in understandingRight after I published my conversation with Mike Wagner this week we talked for more than an hour about his work. Because we did the interview by email and there's so much more to it, I was curious.

If you can't be face to face with someone, the phone is the next best thing. You have a chance to hear the inflection in the voice, the pauses, and get into a rhythm. Especially when you haven't talked to someone in a while, like in our case, it gives you the texture and tempo of what a person is thinking.

Mike talked through how he came upon some of the work he does. This will resonate with many of you, because he helps people in companies collaborate better through conversation.

It's astounding to me, but we don't have the words anymore. Many of us use so few words in our work that we limit our thinking. Creating something new and interesting becomes more difficult. But also communicating with others and figuring out what we're saying. No words, no connection.

I have a publication where I've been slowly building up the words to talk about how Italians view experience — how I view experience based on where I grew up. To make it relatable, I write about travel and food, two things I love so much. And also about inspiration and some of the great Italian thinkers and doers and brands of our times.

This week I wrote a short article about face to face, making new friends in Italy. It's not just an Italian thing, of course. But that's my cultural reference, and it has helped me tremendously to get in front of CEOs and decisions makers, be on Boards, and contribute in companies, friendships, and collaborations. Thought collaborations are important to a satisfying life, not just work.

Then I came across a podcast by Barry Ritholtz with Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer, an artist and business person whose thinking I've admired for a while. Here's a relevant conversation between Grazer and Malcolm Gladwell on genius and curiosity. And here's a write up about his secret to a bigger life.

Grazer is out with a new book, which I mentioned in my article on, Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection.

The whole Masters in Business interview is interesting, there's a fun back and forth between Ritholtz and Grazer. A particular spot toward the end caught my attention.

RITHOLTZ: A recent college grad comes to you and said they’re interested in pursuing a career in film or television production, what sort of advice would you give now?

GRAZER: Always try to understand the language of our business, of the culture. Read the trades, read Deadline Hollywood. Read these things that seemed kind of like trashy, gossipy, but truthful of what’s going on in Hollywood.

First, learn the language. That’s what I’d say. Learn the language then I’d say find somebody that you respond — and then I always say to somebody, do you want to — optimally, do you want to work inside or outside? If you want to work inside, then you can be an agent, you can be a producer, you can be a writer.

If you’re going to work outside, you can be an assistant director or a director. You have to think, imagine, where do you want to spend your day? In or out? It’s a simple thing. And then you can find another simple thing that helps you get there.

But the language is going to help you because it will decode the internal workings of the business.

The language part is super important, it matters in every industry, it matters if you're talking to people, or to machines. So you need the words to think, and you need them to connect, get on the same page.

You can speak more than one language, and have more words, but need to be mindful of the translation piece, they need to be appropriate. When I speak English I think in English, and it's the same for Italian.

This idea transfers over to industries and companies. I've worked in technology, software services and also hardware, chemicals, risk management and insurance, direct to consumer, you get the idea. My job is often to decode and translate.

Which is where Grazer's idea of outside and inside comes in. Because partners and customers focus on what they want to do, and not the jargon, so it takes being aware of how they see the world, and speak their language, or give them the vision and the words to make it happen. Plus, it's a good idea to seek first to understand.

I'll have more to say on this as it relates to brands. Always try to understand the language of business and the culture is good advice.


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