Dancers listening to instruction

Got this (below) from Gordon in the Demming Learning Network this morning. Reminded me of something I read recently:

“An organisation is effective to the degree that each member knows and cares about what others are doing.”

Peter Koestenbaum (Philosopher, consultant and leadership educator)


How skilled are our organisations at listening?

An extract from the UK press. The Populus survey for ITV news found that people think that both the politicians (85%) and the media (79%) treat their views with indifference and contempt.

What would the figure be within our organisations? Would the vast majority be of the opinion that their views were ignored?

This surely emanates from our old command & control mental model

We contrast this Tom Johnson’s findings at Toyota and Scania. Management in these companies use measurable data but the majority of their thinking is based round what they observe when listening to the workforce.

When our organisations have neither the listening skills nor the process to respond to what they hear; they cut themselves off from an enormous store of ideas and goodwill.

As Arie de Gues points out – competitive advantage of the future is not going to be governed by available capital – but by our ability to utilise the intelligence and spirit of our people.

Nice one Gordon!

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4 comments… add one

  • I’ve been having my own doubts/thoughts on whether schools are ready to do proper listening and create some real citizenship opportunities for their students:

    The debate is interesting, as some people think ‘protect the kids from themselves’ is better than learning how to listen and interact with people when they don’t agree with what you think.

  • Ewan,
    thanks for your comment. You raise interesting questions…
    One of the focuses for my work in education has been development of coaching and I have put great emphais on listening (80% of coaching is based on good listening).
    I’ve noticed a strong proclivity to ‘fix’, to give advice, rather than suspend judgement and really listen.
    I have some ideas as to why this may be the case – what do you think?

  • I do see a lot of folk who have made their mind up before they ‘listen’. They’re probably doing this because, genuinely, they believe they’re right. There are also some who seem to have an apparent need to have come up with the source of ‘improvement’ (I might fall into this category 😉 I guess every case is different, and that’s what makes your coaching role so important for individual cases.

  • Ewan,

    interesting observations! I’m sure you have identified one of the main issues – a closed mind, and also perceiving i’m right or have ‘the right answer’! This is even more interesting when we put it in the context of education. We want to teach people to have the right answer, and more importantly, we need to have the right answer to tell them!

    Harry Truman once said that ?The only things worth learning are the things you learn after you know it all.?

    Some say that the biggest block to learning is fear or anxiety. This may be true, but another huge block is being convinced “I know”. Of course, perceptive people recognise that taking this ‘position’ actually links to anxiety! A defence mechanism, to avoid being exposed, after all I must know the answer…

    Sometimes, i prefer to put this a bit more appreciatively: one of the keys to enable learning, is cultivating curiosity and wonder. Not much is said about humility – not sure I’ve ever seen it in a competency model, but it sure is a key element to effective learning!

    You are so right that every case is different, and there is a real danger in generalising. I was interested in what you thought tho, as you are connected to the education system, and i do think there are themes that have emerged for me in working in this sector for a wee while.

    I must take a few moments and capture them…

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