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Moments of Impact: Making Work Conversations [actually] Work

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This third kind of work conversation involves divergent thinking

In Moments of Impact: How to design conversations that accelerate change (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2014), Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon make the case that we need a third kind of conversation at work. Here’s how Solomon and Ertel categorize most work meetings:

  1. Typical meeting where someone stands at the front blathering on with slides while attendees multitask with Facebook, Twitter and occasionally, actual work.
  2. Brainstorming meeting where people attend to think brand new thoughts (and to eat donuts). But brainstorming meetings are routinely dismissed today as producing far fewer ideas than if the attendees sat in isolation producing ideas before coming together.
  3. Strategic Conversations. This is Ertel and Solomon’s new kind of conversation. Rather than engaging in the typical presentation/multi-tasking meeting, they want attendees to deeply and viscerally engage in a compelling question.
Mindful like a hungry hawk.

Mindful like a hungry hawk.

Moments of Impact is all about how to make this third kind of conversation happen. The book develops five points to help make strategic conversation an experience versus another bout of human downloadment:

  1. Declare objectives/define the purposeMomentsOfImpact-10272014
  2. Identify participants/engage multiple perspectives
  3. Assemble content/frame the issues
  4. Find a venue/set the scene
  5. Set the agenda/make it an experience

Nothing earth-shattering so far, right?

And yet, as it is so often, our connections provide the earth-shattering stuff, rather than any consultant’s formula. Where we connect—with 100% attention—that’s where the magic happens. In connection there something mystical that lies beyond engineering technique and management principles. Moments of Impact is about setting the stage for that connection.

One thing is becoming clearer very day: when we employ mindfulness rather than pursuing mindlessness, we find ourselves deeply engaged rather than seeking more distractions.

Mindfulness in the service of creating an experience also seems to honor humans as human (versus as corporately-owned human capital to be rejiggered at will).

That old attitude may have worked for an assembly line (doubtful), but for our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, we need the best each of us can bring.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Work isn’t what it used to be

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But was it ever?

Yesterday I ran into a friend and colleague from a medical device company we both worked at. He’s still there but said 70 percent of his staff was recently laid off, which mirrors what I had heard from other parts of the company. My friend surprised me by saying most of the jobs had gone overseas. He also said the expertise of the replacements was noticeably sub-par.

Sour grapes? Maybe. Maybe not. We already know that people with experience cost more to hire and keep then people without experience. This is good news for people wanting into an industry. This is not-so-good news for those invested in life with one company. But life in one company—was that ever a realistic expectation? I grew up thinking that was the norm. Dad worked for IBM and IBM never laid people off. Until they did.

My own decades of work experience show companies large and small shucking employees as a natural part of the business cycle. It came to be an expected—if morose—part of all my generation’s experience. Without exception. Human capital is still, well, capital.

From all our political talk about “Jobs!” you might expect the return of those old high-paying jobs you stay at until you wake up dead at your desk one day. Those days are gone. Today the best offense and defense are the same: anticipate change. Build bridges with people. Sharpen skills.


Image Credit: Never Rider via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

October 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm

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