I’ve found that by settling on a new concept can sometimes change the conversation which can create action. When someone uses the word “user” in a meeting I’m in, I’ll actually stop them and say “you mean our ‘customer’?” Everyone chuckles, but I’ve witnessed the conversation shift to be a bit more human, a bit more about the experience, a bit less about the “feature”.
One of the interesting things about the anecdote that sparked the thinking/doing debate was the amount of interest it generated… lots of comments and links and trackbacks. It became a mini viral story, I think because it touched a nerve with people, a commonly held frustration with a sense of analysis paralysis. Bloggers then chipped in their own interpretations and anecdotes in a kind of collaborative sense-making. The zeitgeist could be interpreted as a groundswell against rumination and in favour of activity. And here is the irony… we were all, in a sense, having an conversation about talking less and doing more.
As in so many things in life, what seem initially like opposites – talk vs action – aren’t. John P’s recent entry gives an example of conversation that changes the way people make sense of a situation and no doubt affects their action. (Meandering digression: the email I blogged yesterday tends to suggest we must always choose between love and fear; whereas life is more paraoxical – even though I still enjoyed the idea).
Then I think of the times in meetings I’ve done what John P is talking about – said something that disrupted the apparent consensus (in varying degrees). The effect is usually energising. But also, what precedes my interruption is not a merely mental process; usually there is a growing feeling of discomfort in my gut in response to the conversation I’m listening to. Now for that to happen, some physical action has to take place, some muscles have to contract. When we look at the human detail, in this talk, there is action. And vice versa. (Chicken vs egg). )And by the way, when I stay silent, or when I go along with the consensus and don’t speak up, other muscles contract in other ways…
So instead of dividing into two camps.. the mesomorphs who celebrate action, and ectomorphs deifying thought/conversation, we may not be as divided as we think. And then the focus shifts from talk as opposed to action to looking at the quality of our actions and conversations. This is the area of work that really gets me going; how much time do we spend reflecting on the quality of our engagement when in meetings as well as the content of the conversation.. and how often do we jointly reflect on that experience?
My experience in business is that shared reflection happens relatively little because people think they don’t have time. But in a networked economy, I think that creating conversations of great quality is largely what marketing must do. And if marketing people (and I daresay anyone else) aren’t reflecting on how they converse, they may be missing some pretty useful – and actionable – information on how to do their job better.
Perhaps this partly explains why bloggers blog. Because blogging does provide one way to create reflective space for ourselves.
Thanks for listening.