Thursday, August 15, 2013

Listening is Hard

Listening is hard. At least that's my experience and there's lots of research that correlates with my experience. I recently heard or read somewhere that we can only listen for 7 seconds without interrupting the speaker or having our thoughts drift off. I couldn't find where I read or heard this. Maybe some podcast? Maybe I forgot because I was already thinking about this blogpost before I finished listening to the article...

Anyway, I searched around a bit and found several posts that say we only listen 5-7 seconds and then start to think of something else or we start to think about interrupting. Another posts says it 18 or 23 seconds. Tom Peters says 18 seconds. And this post just doesn't know...

In any case listening is extremely important. Seth Godin wrote a nice post about this. Listening is "not a passive act" and needs "purpose". And Luis Suarez wrote about "active listening" and points to a lovely video about listening with Tom Peters. Listening is "a profession that needs to be learned".

Ok, but are there any ways to improve my listening skills? An old post by Dave Gray has a nice list to start with. After reading Euan Semple's post about why managers should blog (and why it's hard!), I thought: Blogging is also a great way to improve listening. Euan says:
You notice more. You become more aware of what is happening around you because you may choose to write about it one day.
And one of the ways to notice is to listen.

How do you actively listen? Are you good at listening? What makes a good listener according to you?

Welcome David!

As I tweeted and G+-ed just a couple of days ago: my 3rd son was born on Sunday. His name is David John (Dutch: David Johannes). He's a healthy, big boy weighing 4386 gr and he's 56 cm long.

I'm happy to say the delivery went well. There were some complications, but we're doing fine now.

We're all enjoying little David and getting used to him. David's older brothers are extremely proud of him.

Friday, August 9, 2013

When new technologies become productive

Wired is my favorite work-related magazine by far. I read all editions from cover to cover (almost). Recently Wired celebrated its 20th anniversary with a special edition. Reading through that edition is a fascinating trip through history. And it's only been 20 years!

For their anniversary Wired also collected some of their most popular articles and bundled them into an ebook. One of the articles struck me. The article is titled: The Long Boom: A History of the Future, 1980 - 2020 and is written by Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden. I'm a sucker for these kind of articles. But I found this one intriguing because it was written some time ago. I was curious how well they predicted what was going to happen in the time we are living in now. Of course they got things wrong, but many predictions are quite correct. Go ahead, read the article and see for yourself.

But there's one part in this article that I wanted to share with you. It relates to all the posts that have been written about adoption of new (social) technologies and concepts. And whether social business has or hasn't caught in. The authors of this article point to some interesting research. They say:
Productivity, as it happens, becomes one of the great quandaries stumping economists throughout the 1990s. Despite billions invested in new technologies, traditional government economic statistics reflect little impact on productivity or growth. This is not an academic point - it drives to the heart of the new economy. Businesses invest in new technology to boost the productivity of their workers. That increased productivity is what adds value to the economy - it is the key to sustained economic growth.
Research by a few economists, like Stanford University's Paul Romer, suggests that fundamentally new technologies generally don't become productive until a generation after their introduction, the time it takes for people to really learn how to use them in new ways. Sure enough, about a generation after the introduction of personal computers in the workplace, work processes begin mutating enough to take full advantage of the tool. Soon after, economists figure out how to accurately measure the true gains in productivity - and take into account the nebulous concept of improvement in quality rather than just quantity.
I highlighted the core statement I wanted to share with you. One generation. That's a long time... And we've just started understanding, adopting and applying social concepts and tools to the enterprise, internally and externally. We all want change fast and in our lifetime. I can relate to that... But is it realistic? Does is really connect to the way the world, organizations and people work?

This statement, based on research by Paul Romer, makes me more modest about the things I would like to see happen and motivates me to continue to push on, evangelize, experiment, learn, etc. And I'm hoping it helps you too. Does it?

Neglecting my blog...

Remember me? I'm the guy who used to blog regularly here, but has been silent for some time. Man, what is going on?

Happy to say I wasn't silent on Twitter and Google+... But I must say not blogging feels bad. For some time I was wondering if I was out of ideas to share. I know this is not the case. I have many draft blogposts waiting to be finalized for publication. Bu the main reason for not publishing them is time. I never put blogging in my schedule. I would just blog whenever I felt like it and had time to think and write. But my working (and private) life has changed lately. Not just in the number of projects I'm doing, but also juggling them in my head. I think that's the most important reason for not blogging. I need time and brain cycles to churn out posts. And it was not there or I didn't make sure it was there. Maybe I need to underschedule more?

Anyway, I plan to blog more regularly. I'm simply inserting time to blog in my schedule and see if that works. There are many things to blog about triggered by things I read on the web. And I've been working on lots of interesting projects and I want to share learnings from them with you. For instance, I'm helping a large, international bank with the adoption (or should I say adaptation?) to a new way of working and dito toolset. Wow, what an interesting company and project that is!

So, this is step number 1. Now for step 2.

And, as always, I look forward to hear from you.