When you don’t know, ASK . . .

question mark

I’ve been in so many situations I know nothing about. Working in several different industries I’ve had to ‘get smart, fast.’ How do I do it? By asking questions . . . and more importantly listening to the answers. Since I wasn’t really sure what would be valued at the Chick Tech Conference, I put together a control group of 10 women and I asked them what they would like to hear at a conference like this.

Then I listened.

Listening is something that you can never do deeply enough. Words are only a small portion of communication. So many factors go into the message. When I listen to a client, I start with secondary research. I read everything I can, starting with the website.

When I have a face to face meeting, I don’t report what I learned, I listen more. I ask open-ended questions (who, what when, where, why, tell me more . . . ) If I find a discrepancy between the secondary data and the conversation I’m having, I’ll listen more.

Several things might be going on . . . they might be creating something new and it hasn’t yet been documented. Or the person I’m speaking with has a more narrow view. I may have a broader vision of the topic based on my research. The person I’m speaking to may have a specialized view if they are a technician working in a specific role. I listen to them and I learn more.

 

prism

When I’m listening I often think of it as holding a prism up to the light. Each time I turn the prism a new brilliant color or luminous image will be revealed. Listen deeply to your audience as you gather requirements, create new technology, discover scientific solutions, build a new business or bring a product to market. Listen . . .

How Do Sound Processes Save Money?

Over the weekend I bought a Hampton Bay Ceiling Fan Light Kit from Home Depot. The colors of the finishes in the bedroom where the ceiling fan is located are all some sort of antique brass. The metal finish colors intentionally don’t match in the room. I didn’t want to spend life hours searching for the exact shade of antique brass so I decided to go with an eclectic look that would hopefully, thoughtfully coordinate.Hampton Bay 2-Light Ceiling Fan Light Kit

My previous experience when buying products with finishes is there will be a hand-drawn check mark in black marker, checking off the box that indicated whether the finish color was () white () antique brass () polished brass () black or () satin nickel.

I saw the colors listed on the box but no black check mark. “Uh oh”, I thought, “which color will it be?” I opened the box. From past experience purchasing products with the hand drawn check black marker checkmark, the color marked on the box and the color inside did not match requiring a drive back to Home Depot.

I found that all the finishes were included. This took a few seconds to comprehend, it was so odd and different from my previous experiences. Not quite believing it I looked back at the box to see which finish was indicated to be in the box. I confirmed they all were included. Wow, this solution gives me lots of options. I can change the color if and when I choose to. If the antique brass color is not quite right, I can make an in-the-moment decision to choose another finish. There’s minimal risk my finish will not be included in the box, saving me time and minimizing frustration.

Here’s my guess on how this process improvement occurred:

  • someone listened to the customers who complained they didn’t like the finishes, or they were wasting time exchanging mismatched boxes, or the finish they wanted wasn’t available. Someone listened.
  • Someone listened to Home Depot, the distribution channel, that was receiving complaints and other feedback. Someone listened.
  • Someone measured:
    • the time and cost it took to physically mark the box with a black marker
    • the savings of minimizing the labor to mark the box and the expense of procuring the markers
    • the cost of having product taking up shelf space because the finish color was not the desired color
    • the cost of re-stocking when the finish color was not right
    • the cost of dissatisfied customers
    • the cost of monitoring which trends in light kit finishes would sell
    • the cost of damaging relationships with distributors

Someone calculated the cost of:

  • including four finishes in each box

Someone asked if the cost if the increased cost of including four finishes was justified in hard dollar cost savings, minimized consumer complaints, maximized consumer satisfaction, strengthened the relationship with the distribution channels and would be the manifestation of the brand they want to be known for.

My guess is that including all four finishes does accomplish all those things. However, Hampton Bay can’t stop now, they need to keep asking . . . and listening.

How Can We Be Sure When to Trust?

 

Last week’s post review the book The China Study which provides seemingly credible evidence advocating for a plant based diet to avoid and even cure disease. A quick internet search will uncover passionate arguments for and against a plant based diet.

So how can we know? When do we know? What is right? How can we use information? What should we do?

It’s important to find out how research is conducted and who sponsors the research. All research will have some holes in it. All research can be disproved in some way. So what are we to do when we are at the crossroads and need to make decisions?

  • Understand as much as possible about the study and the motivation of the study as possible
  • Determine if the study and the advocates of the study are trustworthy

 

 

  • Do your best to understand the world view of those advocating the study
  • Evaluate the information against your own beliefs, awareness, experiences
  • Have open conversations with people that both support and discredit the cause. Listen deeply to their responses and opinions. Use the information to inform your beliefs. Listen with the intent to learn and understand.

Your own, thoughtful, informed courageous opinion is necessary and required when evaluating data, people and situations. Keep questioning, listening, learning and challenging.