conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Collaboration in Real Life: The Book Cover

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Self-promotion is stinky poop

This week I spoke with a copywriter who writes plays and novels on the side. But he doesn’t work too hard on promoting his finished bits of literature. He prefers to stick to the writing part (who doesn’t?). This copywriter is not atypical on two counts:

  1. If you don’t need to get your message out (that is, move product to earn the feeble coin a book represents) you can let it languish.
  2. Copywriters are bad at self-promotion.
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Roger’s cover

Not all copywriters, and probably not the copywriter I spoke with. But many are bad at self-promotion. It’s funny because while copywriters have insight into the psychology of business problems and use divergent thinking to solve those problems, they have a hard time turning that insight onto their own projects.

And that is true for all of us.

It’s not just because self-promotion has the feeling of swimming in a septic tank. It is also because we are truly blinded to the very things we are most passionate about. We’re typically deep inside those passions, and we have no clue what it all looks like from the outside. That’s why we need to tell others and get the outside insight that telling affords.

A client and friend provided a quick insight that has proved far better than anything this insider could produce. My first book, ListenTalk: When Conversation is an Act of God, is on its way through this marathon called publishing. Encapsulating the message into an image and a few words has proved daunting to me. Roger’s cover, with the fire, well, most people love it better than my covers. I’m not bitter, I’m grateful: grateful to have people around who can offer very tangible insights. These insights regularly, well, cover my arse. And I’ve always maintained that I am neither a designer nor photographer.

I thank God for people with such quick insight.

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My covers.

A word about ListenTalk versus “conversation is an engine”

If you’ve dropped by this blog, you may have noticed I hit on different topics as they relate to conversation. Business and the business of writing, and the business of how faith and craft and work fit together are key drivers for me as I write.

My first ongoing project along these lines was to develop a sort of practical theology of persuasion—something I was desperate to understand as a copywriter who regularly trusts in God. That is what ListenTalk represents. It takes some topics from “conversation is an engine” but develops them specifically for people of faith. Here’s the draft copy from the back cover:

“Talk is cheap.”

So we say, but deep down we know different.

We know talk is a potent engine for war and love and all that lies between. Talk is our entertainment and our tool for exploring every relationship. Talk is an economic engine. Lives change—culture changes—when we talk together. In many ways, the future is patterned after our speech.

And this: even God responds to talk.

Yet we pay scarce attention to the working parts of conversation: the listening, the words used, and the intent behind the words. And we hardly think about God’s purpose in speaking, and how God speaks today with fierce desire for reunion—and how that desire motivates all God says and does.

Every day, people work out God’s desire in thousands of ordinary ways. Not so much through sermons and high-minded programs as through the ordinary conversations among themselves.

ListenTalk will help you to re-think what God accomplishes in even your smallest, most ordinary conversations.

ListenTalk is a wonderful book with deep wisdom, practical advice, and heart-warming encouragement. Read it, converse with it, and share it with others.” –Dr. Quentin Schultze, Calvin College

“In our contemporary world where words and ideas seem to divide far more than they unite, ListenTalk provides an antidote of balance and sanity. ListenTalk reminds us of a power that can lead to greater understanding, intimacy, collaboration, and even personal transformation…culminating in deepening our life with God.” –Judith Hougen, University of Northwestern—St. Paul

 

 

Hey—wait a second. You could buy ListenTalk!

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Are Doctors “Ethically Obligated” to Tweet?

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No.

Although Wendy Sue Swanson, MD (@SeattleMamaDoc) feels that way about her social media presence (as demonstrated in this clip).

There is one piece of the Hippocratic Oath that calls for casting a wider net in “all my acquirements, instructions, and whatever I know” to those within the physician’s circle. The original oath also called all gods and goddesses to witness and observe, but these days the NSA serves that function (despite HIPAA).

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Yesterday’s MedAxiom post by Ginger Biesbrock (“Has anyone seen my Dictaphone?”) makes the excellent point that any new technology adopted should make taking care of patients easier. New technology should not get in the way of treatment, it should not be another hurdle to jump. Instead, technology should simplify meeting the patient’s need. That’s why I’m pleased with the movement to hire medical scribes to complete the electronic medical records in the moment—freeing doctors to treat patients versus keyboarding.

Dr. Swanson’s strong feeling about casting a wider net is likely shared by many if not most physicians. And it just so happens that putting correct information out where regular folks might read it may also be a way to grow your practice—which has been the capitalistic promise of social media from day one.

Sure: doctors are busy. But I cannot help but wonder if more and more physicians will make outward communication (blogging, tweeting, connecting) a priority as they work to free themselves from some routine tasks.

Many already are.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Should a Doctor Blog?

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Only if they want to grow their practice. Or connect with other physicians. Or with patients. Or provide thought-leadership.

Greg Matthews, author of Missing the Forest for the Trees, has been studying the online presence of physicians for years. He’s found that the credibility of their position and the connections within that position can translate to large and devoted followings today.

But all that was counter-intuitive in 2007.

Back when Mr. Matthews was formulating his questions about physicians online.

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Back then he was sure—we all were sure—that talking about health information online would never fly. It’s just too personal. What kind of nut would diagnose and prescribe in public/online?

Plus, well, HIPAA.

But some physicians found a way to talk with regular folks (that is, us non-experts who live on the web) about pressing topics. Diagnosis and prescribing on the web was a non-starter, but presenting topics in a way that made sense to regular people did happen. And as we all took to the web to sort our maladies, these authoritative, personal voices became trusted sources of information.

According to Mr. Matthews, today 61% of physicians access social media weekly, 5000 physicians post daily to blogs and Twitter, and 50 physicians are followed each by more than 500 other physicians.  Some physicians even feel “ethically obligated” to share on the web.GregMatthewsReport-10222014 Download Mr. Matthews PDF for more stats.

In this blog (conversation is an engine) we talk about conversation. We’ve noted how conversation is a two-way street: not just in words exchanged, but actually causing conversation partners to go and do different stuff. We leave our best conversations changed and with new resolve for the most important things facing us. It’s a sort of speech-act theory for anyone willing to take a dumb-sketch approach to life.

And even physicians and even patients can gain from this. And what they both gain is far more than mere information.

It makes me wonder what paths might open for collaborative conversations in lots of different work settings.

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Buzludzha: Bulgaria’s Elegant Monstrosity

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Built When Communism Could Not Fail

That could never happen here. For example, the new Viking’s stadium: football will never go away.

Right?

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Via The Economist

Written by kirkistan

October 21, 2014 at 7:23 am

Prank your colleagues with over-eager listening

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Listening-lessons from the dead

Halloween is still a couple weeks out and we’re gearing up to scare the bejeebers out of each other. Check out this infarction-inducing bus shelter in Austria. Certainly the walking dead are a scary fiction.

(The walking dead are fiction. Right?)

Here’s a way to prank your colleagues on a Monday. When they say something, get very close—inches away—and listen. It’s freaky, I tell you. Invade their personal space with wide eyes and open ears. Set your mind and fix your body to understand what they are saying, why they are saying it, and what it means.

This scary prank comes courtesy an old dead guy I’ve been reading. This old dead guy played all sorts of pranks. He was a kind of performance-art-communicator: He shaved with a sword. He drew a city on a brick laid next it for a year, packed his luggage and broke through a wall instead of calling for a camel-taxi.

Only they weren’t exactly pranks. He was hearing voices (well, a voice) and acting out what that voice said. Was he nuts? Likely his contemporaries thought so. But his culture also held a treasured place for people they considered prophets—people who seemed to speak for God. Which Ezekiel reluctantly did.

This particular listening prank came from the voice Ezekiel heard, but it also was not a prank, but a way to pay attention to the next thing he was about to see. The voice asked for careful attention because the next thing was important. And the prophet’s job was to declare it.

Be careful with this prank. Pretending to listen can become actual listening, which can be habit-forming because of the way it affects your relationships and job.

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Image credit: Taxi

Blue Mounds: Broken

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Blue Mounds State Park in Southwestern Minnesota is a surprise. This break with farmland rises amidst all the flatness. See for miles from the hiking trails along the top.

Sioux quartzite cliff 100 feet above an ancient quarry.

Sioux quartzite cliff 100 feet above an ancient quarry.

More on “broken” here.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

October 18, 2014 at 10:05 am

If a Customer Shouts in the Forest and No Customer Service Rep is Around to Hear it…

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Should she post a comment on Yelp?

Nancy Beiersdorf of Medtronic’s e-Commerce and global strategy hinted (in this SAP talk) at the medical device company’s evolution from a product company to a solutions and service company. One important ingredient in this new recipe will be hearing from the people with problems (people in need of a solution) and helping them solve those problems (that is, service).

But hearing from customers is not easy—even for other customers.

If you’ve ever used Yelp to locate a restaurant while traveling through a new city, you know to toss 30-50% of the comments as someone having (a) evil intent or (b) a bad day. Even our favorite national parks suffer from poor Yelp reviews:

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Sorting fact from fiction has been a traditional problem with hearing from the customer. Customer service must wade through long, rabbit-trail narratives to finally get to the actionable item. That is the way of human conversation—sometimes it takes a while to get to the point. All this unquantifiable blather plays havoc with our quality systems. Surely customer service will soon chart a metric like “Time to actionable issue” and pay employees accordingly.

Hearing from customers is an inherently messy business. Especially for Medtronic: where reps once talked only with cardiologists and electrophysiologists now there will be all sorts of real people on the phone (or more likely, placing orders and comments on a web site).

All this conversation cannot help but change things upstream and downstream. In particular I expect at least two results:

  1. Increasing masses of consumer-to-company interactions will train consumers over time to use certain words and press certain buttons to get what they want. Much in the same way we are conditioned by repetition to bypass our bank’s introductions to get to a real human.
  2. Corporations may grow more sensitivity toward customer voices–the very thing Ms. Beiersdorf  advocates. By that I mean conversations have a way of working backward into the machine-gears of a corporation. As solutions and service show up more clearly on the P&L sheets, people will start to pay more attention to human interaction.

At least that is what I hope.

Let there be more advocates for the customer voice.

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Image credit via Adfreak

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