Innovation is non-existent without listening. Innovation is a process that requires the generation of new ideas where often the first idea isn’t the best, but by engaging in an iteration of ideas, innovation happens. The route to new ideas occurs through a variety of processes; brainstorming, idea mapping, and sharing to name a few. Underscoring each of these processes is the art of listening. Listening builds trust. Listening invites curiosity. While this may sound easy and we listen every day, true listening is a perishable skill and must be practiced.
Listening builds trust. Trust opens the conversation among people and teams creating a safe place for people to share ideas and suggestions. Especially in team situations where everyone brings individual skills and perspectives to the table, the ability to actively listen can inspire new thoughts and a chain of ideas that take you to places you would not otherwise have previously anticipated. The trusting environment encourages wild idea, blue sky thinking and a level of vulnerability for participants. This opportunity couldn’t be achieved without listening and connecting with others who are all seeking a creative outcome.
“Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity… and these in turn rely on the education of our people. ” – Julia Gillard
Listening invites curiosity. Commonly people listen for the chance to reply. They are listening only part way because they are busy crafting their response in their head. When someone is listening for curiosity, they are putting aside their internal dialogue and truly listening to understand. Someone who does this will be seen asking questions, confirming understanding, and seeking clarification. The action here is about understanding the other, and the other’s ideas. Think about it, innovation doesn’t come from what you already know. This is where the magic happens!
Listening is a perishable skill and must be practiced. Everyone thinks listening is easy. We’ve done it every day, all of our lives. With the two prior points in mind, ask yourself, do I truly listen? To practice listening you can engage in seven active listening skills. The skills are 1. Summarize 2. Ask open ended questions, 3. Use minimal encouragers (Oh, Huh, Ok, etc.), 4. Paraphrase, 5. Reflecting mirroring, 6. Emotion labelling, 7. “I” messages. Purposefully engage and practice these steps with colleagues, family and friends until you become comfortable. Practicing them in small increments in regular situations so that you feel comfortable with them when you find yourself in important situations. These skills are used by executives, hostage negotiators, salespeople and innovation experts around the world. Next time you find yourself with a group of people and catch yourself thinking about your next reply; stop and listen up.
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