Two ears and one mouth..
An old saying, reminding us of the importance of listening, seems to have a renewed critical relevance given recent political events in the UK, in the USA and for imminent elections in other European countries.
We have a tsunami of pollsters, 'commentariat' and experts on every form of media channel, using apparently the latest analytical techniques and technologies and yet the customers and public just don't seem to play ball and fall into line. So what's going wrong?
It’s easy to be comforted with like-minded commentators by agreeing that this spreading phenomenon is simply 'two fingers to the establishment', a chance to register protest, 'people don't really know what they are voting for'. It sounds scarily similar to some of the narrative used by executives trying to explain loss of trust and business, having made decisions which effect consumers based on 'sound evidence' from focus groups and perhaps highly vocal voices on social media. “They'll regret their choice, they'll be back once they realise how bad the service is, don't they realise how good our offering is?"
According to Matt Ridley writing in The Times this week, 'The crowd has a wisdom no expert can match'; wise words indeed and supported by extensive research. The trouble is, how do you unleash this power in a way which gives you as accurate a picture as possible?
There’s a good book in the making here, but a couple of observations are equally relevant in politics and business. One must surely be the repetition, clarity and simplicity of information given which actually drives choice and behaviour. Interesting feedback from USA exit polls showed that substantial numbers of those who claimed that Trump was unsuitable went on to vote for him! Regardless of our views about his win, no one could argue with his simple communications style which at the end of the day reached parts that others didn't.
Another must be to ensure that outliers i.e. loud promoters and detractors are indulged; but without ignoring or worse assuming the wishes of less vocal stakeholders who are in a sense under the radar. Maybe we simply need to apply old disciplines to a faster paced information-rich and oftentimes more complex world. And as we live in a mobile digital visual world, the potential to listen is so much greater encompassing real time observation.
Ernest Hemingway famously said, "I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."
Our senses will certainly be heightened next week at CCA Convention, I look forward to seeing everyone and of course listening intently to your views!