Communication Not Transmission

October 27, 2012

Recently, as part of a general tidy-up, I’ve been re-organising my email accounts (as each provider uses a slightly different approach). Not quite so dull as it sounds as it got me thinking about how I can use email better.

Looking at sample email threads, it’s clear that a summary email would often be very helpful – you could then discard all the previous ramblings and sidetracks. At the time it’s not important as you can keep it all in your head (so the motivation for doing it is low) but 6 months later – nightmare! So I’ll start doing this as an experiment and see how effective it is (you can just send the email to yourself if you don’t want to share it).

The other issue that crops up is that emails can all to easily start replacing the voice. Once again, looking at samples, I realised that sending emails wasn’t always very effective – a quick call would have been better. Apart from basic communication, in conversations you can pick up related facts than no-one would be bothered to write in an email and you can also gauge feelings through the tone of voice. Hopefully, in many cases, it will also be fun!

So, I’m going to phone more from now on and keep a short note of the outcomes. This post by Mitch Ditkoff summed it up well (he discusses a number of ways of handling email better):

Use the Phone More: If you need a quick answer, call. If you have something long to explain, call. If an emotional issue is on the table, call. If you need to establish rapport with someone, call.

Regarding email in general, it’s always wise to remember that

The goal, by the way, is communication, not transmission.


What Are You Unlearning At Present?

October 23, 2012

Learning new ideas and approaches and developing new skills can sometimes be hard work but it’s usually fun and rewarding. It can also be prescriptive which gives some structure to what you’re doing and you can thereby mark progress.

Unlearning is very different as it often involves getting rid of or at least modifying habits (of thought) that have become embedded over the years. Often you don’t even know you’ve got them, they’re so ‘natural’. I guess it’s also a bit scary – letting something go is always harder than adding something on.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
– Ghandi

Are you unlearning anything at the moment?

If not, maybe you should be…

Picture credit: here.


Playful Insights

October 21, 2012

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato

Reminded me a bit of a previous post on ‘what children can teach us’ – here.


Do You Know How Your Brain Works?

October 19, 2012

Brain Facts – A Primer On The Brain And Nervous System

The free 96 page book (pdf download) is available here.

From the Preface:

Over the past two decades, scientific knowledge about the structure and function of the brain and nervous system and understanding of brain-based disorders have increased exponentially. Neuroscientists are using remarkable new tools and technologies to learn how the brain controls and responds to the body, drives behavior, and forms the foundation for the mind. Research is also essential for the development of therapies for more than 1,000 nervous system disorders that affect more than 1 billion people worldwide.

As these strides occur, it is crucial that scientists communicate with the general public, helping students, teacher, parents, medical caregivers, policymakers, and others stay informed of developments in neuroscience. In particular, students — the scientists, policymakers and scientifically literate citizens of the future — need access to clear, easy-to-use information on this important topic.

And from the Introduction:

THE HUMAN BRAIN — a spongy, three- pound mass of tissue — is the most complex living structure in the universe. With the capacity to create a network of connections that far surpasses any social network and stores more information than a supercomputer, the brain has enabled humans to achieve breathtaking milestones — walking on the moon, mapping the human genome, and composing masterpieces of literature, art, and music. What’s more, scientists still have not uncovered the extent of what the brain can do. This single organ controls every aspect of our body, ranging from heart rate and sexual activity to emotion, learning, and memory. The brain controls the immune system’s response to disease, and determines, in part, how well people respond to medical treatments. Ultimately, it shapes our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and imaginations. It is the ability of the brain to perform all of these functions that makes us human.

Why does this subject area interest me particularly?

One reason is that neuroscience is becomingly increasingly important on a practical level – I’m reading more and more about ‘neuroscience studies show/suggest that…’ a whole host of things, many of which have direct applications to business.

The other reason is a bit more personal.

When I finished my undergraduate degree in theoretical physics, the Head of Department recommended I get into the (slowly emerging) field of neuroscience rather than particle physics. I ignored this advice – I couldn’t see much connection between what I’d been doing and what he suggested and particle physics sounded infinitely more sexy and interesting!

I then successfully carried out research in particle physics for about 15 years (before moving to the commercial sector) but always wondered if he was right! There’s obviously no simple yes/no but what is now ‘neuroscience’ would certainly (in hindsight) have been a tantalising choice.


Opportunities, Taken And Missed

October 17, 2012

“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald (writer)

Unfortunately opportunities we miss are sometimes only clear in hindsight…


The Great British Business Show – November 2012

October 15, 2012

I attended a similar Business Show in November last year and it was rather good. I’ve attended quite a few of these types of events in the past and I thought I’d become rather jaded but it was definitely worth the visit. It’s also free (just register).

22-23 November 2012, Olympia, London – full details here.

Rather usefully, they give a checklist:

We understand that when you’re running a business, time is money. That’s why we recommend that you carefully plan your time at The Great British Business Show, to ensure you get the most out of the event.

With more than 200 exhibitors and over 140 seminars – and a series of live events to participate in over the event’s two days – The Great British Business Show 2011 will be the UK’s largest event for growing businesses.

This checklist, as well as the glossy showguide that will be sent out to all pre-registered ticket holders prior to the event, should help you with your planning and preparations – so that you don’t miss out on anything that could potentially help you propel your business forward.

Between now and the show, you need to think about which options for expanding your business that you’d most like to explore, so you can prioritise them at the event. However, keep in mind that the perfect strategy for your business’ growth could be something that you’ve not yet thought of – so make sure you keep an open mind at The Great British Business Show!

If you’re thinking of giving a pitch these tips might also be handy – it’s surprising how many people ignore/forget them 😦


Organizational Conversation

October 11, 2012

Discussion or Dialogue?

I received an interesting email from my friend David Gurteen recently mentioning ‘organizational conversation’ (extract and my use of italics)

Organizational conversation is about creating an environment where conversation replaces the pervasive traditional form of one way corporate communication – typified by death by PowerPoint presentations and “sage on the stage” lectures. It is about nurturing a culture where people talk with each other rather than at each other.

Phrased that way, it certainly rang a bell. My guess is that most business conversations are ‘at’ rather than ‘with’.

David referred to an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) on ‘organizational conversation‘ by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind. It referred to a (small) survey they’d carried out:

That survey result reinforces a finding that we’ve observed elsewhere in our research: in company after company, the patterns and processes by which people communicate with each other are unmistakably in flux. The old “corporate communication” is giving way to a model that we call “organizational conversation.” That shift is, for many people, a disorienting process. But it also offers a great leadership opportunity.

David has been promoting conversation (as a knowledge exchange tool) for a while now and his Knowledge Cafes (example here) are consistently popular.

Although powerful, this way of thinking seems to be taking a while to catch on. Out of interest I did a search and came across this table comparing dialogue with discussion and this was from 2003! There’s obviously been many developments since then.

Comparing Dialogue With Discussion

Whilst conversation is obviously prevalent in all organisations, it might be worth thinking about your own conversational styles and, depending on the circumstances, how you can develop dialogue as well as discussion.

If you’re curious and want to find out more, I’d recommend attending one of the (free) public Gurteen Knowledge Cafes that are held throughout the year. A list of the London-oriented ones is here (other locations are given on the website). They’re a great way to meet a wide spectrum of like-minded people and, as an added bonus, they’re held in interesting places!