posted 2 Nov 2009 in Volume 13 Issue 2
Itís good to talk
Why, for all knowledge, do we so poorly understand what is going on in our world?
Since the advent of the World Wide Web 15 years ago, we have had unprecedented access to information and knowledge. But are we that much more effective, productive or creative? I donít think so.
I could give you all the information you asked for: perfect information. But would you be able to readily act on it? Probably not!
We donít need more information or knowledge in our organisations. We need to understand what we have better. We need to make better sense of it all.
And how have human beings made sense of the world since the dawn of time? We make sense of the world through conversation; through the telling of stories and anecdotes.
Conversation enables us to become aware of different perspectives; it allows us to better crystallise and articulate our own thoughts and views. It improves our understanding. And with better understanding comes better decision making and innovation.
Whatís more, open conversation helps build relationships. And itís through relationships that everything gets done in our world.
So, why then, do so many mangers stifle and inhibit conversation within their organisations and teams? This subject comes up time and time again during the conversations in my knowledge cafť masterclasses.
Some people think it is because most managers did not get to the top for their social skills, while others recognise that most managers spend the majority of their working lives engaging in conversation and so implicitly do understand its importance. We canít agree.
What we do agree on is that many managers do not value conversation because the outcomes are intangible. There is no immediate action or to-do list as the result of a conversation.
One of the problems with conversations is that they can result in you making very different decisions some months after they have been held, but you have long forgotten the conversation that influenced you. Cause and effect have been lost in time.
So let me leave you with some food for thought on conversation in the form of two quotations:
ďConversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they donít just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, and engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesnít just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.Ē
ďMy belief is that the way we create conversations that overcome the fragmented nature of our communities is what creates an alternative future.
This can be a difficult stance to take for we have a deeply held belief that the way to make a difference in the world is to define problems and needs and then recommend actions to solve those needs.
We are all problem solvers, action oriented and results minded. It is illegal in this culture to leave a meeting without a to-do list.
We want measurable outcomes and we want them now.
What is hard to grasp is that it is this very mindset which prevents anything fundamental from changing. We cannot problem solve our way into fundamental change, or transformation.Ē
Itís good to talk!
David Gurteen is founder of Gurteen Knowledge. He can be contacted at email@example.com