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Listening: A User’s Guide

listen

Our CEO stops by for a word of welcome and a bit of improv.

Thanks for checking out our new Web home! Make sure you take a good look around – we’ve really brightened up the place. By way of welcome, I wanted to talk a bit about one of the cornerstones of the OpenArc way: listening. A powerful concept that, when applied generously, can make a real difference each and every day.

How often do you give someone your complete attention? It’s an undoubtedly busy age, and it takes effort and diligence to tune everything else out and focus on what others are saying – especially with cell phones close by, ready to distract at any moment. In short, being a good listener isn’t easy.

On the other hand, listening well gives you mental space to really hear what someone is saying – and to explore and build together. When you’re only half listening, you’re more likely to have an agenda: “Here’s what I want to say next.” “Here’s where I want this conversation to go.” You won’t be building on each other’s ideas. Instead, you’ll talk past one another, each wondering why the other doesn’t “get it.”

I recently read through Yes, And, a book from executives of world-renowned comedy theatre and improv school The Second City. The book, targeted to a business audience, discusses how improvisational techniques can transform businesses and help organizations develop leaders and innovators.

Reading Yes, And inspired me to take improv classes myself, and I discovered that a major component of improv is listening to your scene partner. It turns out that if you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next, thinking about how to be funny, or doing anything else other than closely listening to your scene partner, you’re probably going get in trouble on stage. The scene will be disjointed, not very engaging, and you’ll miss out on tons of “gifts” from your partner that would have made for a great scene.

Being a good listener isn’t easy. But it is powerful.

We have three major practice areas at OpenArc, and the tagline for each begins with the words, “Listen, Learn.” That’s not an accident. We believe that the start of any innovation, creation, or connection is listening – not half-heartedly, not with an agenda, but giving our customers our complete and total attention. We believe that by doing so, we are better able to build on their ideas and create amazing things together.

So next time you’re in a meeting, close your laptop and tune into what everyone is saying. Next time you’re with a friend, forget about the million things you have going on and really listen. You won’t be sorry!

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