Conversational Intelligence

I have heard two discussions around conversation this week, coming from very different angles, which have similar recommendations. Engage in a true dialog with the other individual. That means listen to them, and don’t go off on a monologue.

So what happens when we monologue? Biologically our body releases a higher level of reward hormones and we feel great. Our bodies crave that high and we become blind to what we’re doing to the other person, who is feeling invisible, unimportant and minimized. Meanwhile they are experiencing the same neurochemicals as physical pain.

Conversational intelligenceJudith Glaser’s upcoming book, Conversational Intelligence, focuses on getting business people, and particularly sales people, to listen to their customers and to engage them in conversation. But first we need to recognize our blind spots. Two common ones are:

  • Assuming that others see what you see, feel what you feel, and think what you think
  • Thinking you understand and remember what others say, when you really only remember what you think about what they’ve said

Harville Hendrix explains that many people become self absorbed due to emotional events in their childhood, usually from their major caregivers that trigger an anxious response. This goes deeply into their emotional memory and follows them into adulthood. Ever wonder why most people live in the WIFM (what’s in it for me) world? At meetings and conferences, they are the ones who tell you what they do, how you can help them, and jam their business card at you without finding out about you aside from your name, which they probably forget immediately. Or conversely, they want to know all about you, but don’t tell you about themselves even when you probe.

Harville Hendrix Helen LaKelly HuntHarville Hendrix and his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt have found that three factors lead to “conscious partnership” between marital partners: safety, connection and joyful aliveness. Low self esteem and interpersonal negativity (putting others down) make it hard to feel safe and connected in an intimate relationship. Gee, doesn’t that sound familiar with relationships we forge in business too?

In couples research, Harville and Helen concluded that most individuals talk in monologue with their mate. We listen, but we don’t hear. Actually I think this is a common phenomenon in everyday life in personal and business dealings. We forget that our true self is part of the bigger whole, and a great place to start is at home with your loved ones.

Tips for improving your dialog skills:

  • Pay attention and minimize the time you monopolize the conversational space
  • Share that space by asking open-ended questions that let the other person know you heard and are listening
  • Listen non-judgmentally to their answers
  • Mirror their responses to make sure you understood
  • Validate what they’re saying
  • Empathize and respond to their feelings

These are the same skills of a good researcher and competitive intelligence professional who is in the collection mode. Good dialog skills can help you in relationship building. It’s a shame that we are not taught from a young age in the US how to conduct a decent dialog. Schools teach us to be competitive and to excel rather than to be cooperative and to learn from others through conversation. Competitiveness encourages that boring monologue, WIFM tendency from an early age.

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Independence or Not?

It’s Independence Day in the US, and it makes me wonder how independent we are as individuals. These thoughts were inspired by “The Busy Trap” in the New Times by Tim Kreider.

How many times have you heard people say, “I am too busy. I am soooo busy.” Are most of us really busier than we used to be? Or are we imposing busyness by all the distractions of everyday 21st century life? I think the only ones who are truly too busy are those who are pulling 3 jobs barely scraping by; students who also work long hours while at university; single parents who no longer have the means to support their family; and those who take care of their elderly parents while also raising kids and working. Not only are they too busy, they are tired and we are losing their creativity while they are in these circumstances.

I traveled a lot in the last month to Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, DC, Virginia and Maryland. While I didn’t think about it, I found myself engaging with the present, with the people I was around and paying less attention to my social networks. I found myself a lot more relaxed, and less busy! I slept longer and was in a better mood. Laughter, which comes easily to me, was ever present. How many ways do you need to connect every day? Do you have to be connected to Twitter and Google+ constantly? How often do you need to log into LinkedIn not to mention Facebook and Foursquare? Do people really need to know what you’re doing all the time and where you ate and what airline you’re flying? Knowing when to connect on social media is a competitive advantage for individuals and for companies. Knowing when not to connect gives you more independence.

We have have had a record amount of fire destruction in Colorado already this summer. I don’t watch TV, another way that I am less busy. Last week when the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs expanded ferociously from the wind gusts and dryness, I was in touch with the present through Twitter feeds and the live video-stream on the Internet. Soon we will have systems in place to help the many families who lost their homes build back their lives.

So how does this translate into competitiveness? We are flooded with incoming information and ways that people steal our time from us, if we pay attention to all of it, or even to too much of it. You don’t need to know ALL the information out there about your marketplace, new technology, the economy, the political situation, your customers, your suppliers and your competitors. Rather you need to know WHEN to pay attention when you are NOTICING CHANGE. If you spend too much time listening to all the chatter you might miss the important changes or your ability to predict how the marketplace is evolving and what you need to do to stay on top or at least to stay competitive!

So on this Independence Day, think about how you are going to regain some lost time in your life by turning down some of that “social noise,” tempting though it be. Learn how to relax again. I plan to enjoy my Mom today who is 94 and is visiting us. Maybe that’s why “The Busy Trap” spoke to me. I want to relish the time I have with her today. BTW she is napping now.

Denver Writing & Competitive Intelligence Event

When fellow Notre Dame alumni, Lynsey Strand asked me to speak about writing, I wondered how I could measure up since I haven’t written a book or published any of the music I have composed over the years. Then it dawned on me that I have published numerous articles for Competitive Intelligence Magazine among others. I also publish this cooperative intelligence blog and a newsletter, Naylor’s Mailer. Early this year I started a personal blog in honor of my dear Dad who died almost a year ago.

Like many things in life, my experience with publishing is part of my journey. In my case writing has been mostly in the field of competitive intelligence since that’s how I have made my living since 1985. Writing has helped me gain credibility in competitive intelligence and helps me develop as a person to dig deeper and be more expressive.

I think sharing my journey will help others feel encouraged about what they have done and where they are right now in their lives around publishing. I will also share where I am in the book publishing world which is where I am treading water. I will share some local Denver publishing venues like CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Association) and Author U. So in the spirit of cooperative intelligence I decided to say YES to this opportunity.

The evening will start with our featured author, Jenny Shank whose book The Ringer will be published early in March 2011. It sounds like a riveting story, and she will read some excerpts from it. Jenny is 20 years my junior and so accomplished. Unlike me, who has fallen into writing, Jenny is a trained and accomplished writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado. I am looking forward to hearing her story and her words of wisdom.

BTW, our connection is our alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. In fact, it’s the women from the Denver Notre Dame Club who are sponsoring this event which takes place on November 5 at the Good Shepherd Catholic School Cafeteria at 620 Elizabeth St, Denver 80206 starting at 6 p.m. More details can be found at the Notre Dame club website. If this interests  you, I hope you will come!

Be Competitive! 22 Tips to Kick Start Your Marketing

Yesterday I attended this most informative AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) Webinar by Mary Ellen Bates, CEO of Bates Information. I have been in business for 17 years, but lack Mary Ellen’s business acumen and marketing focus. BTW these webinars are an additional benefit that AIIP did not offer when I first joined 5 years ago. How many associations offer more services for their members these days than they did previously? Since all webinars are recorded, AIIP members can listen to them anytime. Join AIIP here.

The tippers Mary Ellen shared are helpful for anyone who runs a business, not just information professionals, researchers or competitive intelligence managers. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence I will share a few of her best marketing practices.

Use the telephone and snail mail more, since email is an overused form of communication these days, and many emails are not opened. Even if you call a former customer and just get their voicemail, hearing your voice versus the digital word is a great reminder.

Review your client list annually and assess the quality of your clients. This process will help you plan for the upcoming year and figure out ways you can help clients improve their competitiveness. An informational interview is a great way to learn about a new industry to ultimately target. Ask good questions about how they make strategic decisions, and don’t promote yourself in these calls.

At the conclusion of a project that you know you delivered well, discretely ask for a referral. This is also a good time to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation in my opinion if your project deliverable was not top secret.

Connect with all your clients and prospects through social media: not just LinkedIn, but also Twitter, Facebook, industry Nings and blogs. Comment on blogs. Interaction is the key to develop social networks.

Identify client topics of interest and offer products accordingly. You might interview 5 people and write up a white paper that addresses a topic of interest or industry pain points.

A very practical tipper: give yourself one full day to update all your social network, blog, and other membership profiles. Do they jive and connect with each other?

Mary Ellen suggests many ways you can connect in writing whether digitally or in hardcopy: birthday cards, holiday cards, articles, blogs, Tweets, newsletters, thank you notes: be creative! If you use snail mail, it’s more likely to be opened than email.

Personally I like to create unique marketing to clients and prospects: I snail mail New Year’s cards designed by my husband, Rodgers Naylor with one of his original paintings on the front. Some people have kept our cards, and even framed them, over the years. These cards benefit both of our unrelated businesses!

To learn more, I recommend that you buy the recently published second edition of Mary Ellen’s book, Building and Running a Successful Research Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional.

Use Rivalry to Spur Innovation & Competitive Intelligence Sharing

In a recent McKinsey Quarterly, Mark Little, head of General Electric’s Global Research Group described how GE uses rivalry to stimulate innovation. I think these practices help GE be the powerhouse in the many fields where it is a market leader. Rivalry can mean outright competition—a zero-sum contest in which two individuals or teams go head-to-head and one is declared the winner at the expense of the other. But in the case of GE, rivalry is linked to a second notion, called paragon which means comparison. The motivation behind collaboration often is rivalry as two or more teams compete to develop the best product.

Scientists are motivated a lot like anyone else in that they want to be the best: yes, they’re competitive! Due to my love of aviation, my favorite example cited was the GE90, the large, high-thrust engine developed in the 1990s for the Boeing 777, which was developed by two independent teams. While one team won the competition, the other was assigned to challenge and push the winning team. While this pushing process made the teams uncomfortable, it made the GE90 a better engine and helped advance product development.

In the competitive intelligence field, I think of wargaming as a similar exercise where members of each team collaborate and role play as if they were specific competitors, so there is a healthy rivalry among the teams. However, the goal overall in a war game is to help your company be more competitive. More specifically the goal might be to prepare for a competitor’s new product launch, so it isn’t just the competitors who are represented by a team. One team might represent the marketplace which might include customer’s reactions and regulatory hurdles, for example.

Another example where rivalry works is in sales intelligence, when you reward individual sales people for being the best competition detective. Winners might share information around a new competitor entering your company’s space; a significant change in a competitor’s management team; how a team achieved a win back against a key competitor; new innovation in the marketplace; or how to win sales in spite of regulatory constraints. This is fun since most sales people like publicity and you can lay it on thick through your company’s communication channels: sales rallies, sales teleconference calls, complimentary write ups in the company wiki/newsletter or intranet and a handwritten letter to the sales person’s boss and others like the VP of Sales! While your reward system will never compete with a sales person’s commission, this publicity can. This playful rivalry will only grow over time if you figure out different ways to let Sales compete and continue to publicize your thank-you to the best competition detectives.

The real learning is you can use healthy rivalry to stimulate various behaviors since most people are naturally competitive and want to be the best. You need to figure out how best to motivate individuals to reach your company’s goals whether it’s product innovation, competitive intelligence or sales intelligence, the examples cited here. Depending on an individual’s personality type, this healthy rivalry might be fun or it might make them squirm a bit.

In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, here is an article on sales intelligence for your reading pleasure.

Real-time Collaborative Architectural Modeling Enhances Complex Product Development

Bryan MoserBryan Moser spoke to our Denver PDMA (Product development Management Association) chapter about the value of models such as the one his company, Global Project Design (GPD) developed  to forecast, optimize, allocate and measure coordination in complex product development projects. These models take into account different cultures, time zones, language barriers, and dispersed decision-making. They also incorporate engineering behavior among different cultures based on their typical interaction.

Today there is pressure to succeed in a dramatically concurrent fashion, which increases the risk of rework, quality and design. The thinning of the workforce affects production as does the loss of deep knowledge and connection from workers who have been laid off or who have retired. Another finding in these complex product development initiatives is that the cost of coordination is high and is on average 30%-35% of the time consumed.

Bryan walked us through the example of the Sikorsky S92 helicopter product development project. Their biggest concern was defending their intellectual property as they selected companies in various countries to work as an integrated team. The team was spread across the globe in countries such as Brazil, Taiwan, Spain, China and Japan, and included big company names such as Embraer of Brazil and Taiwan Aerospace, for example. Sikorsky USA was the decision-making company.

Sikorsky had predicted that it would take 5 years from product spec to prototype development. It took 9 years, and GPD’s model prediction was only off by 2 months from the actual time. Sikorsky hadn’t taken into account the dynamics that would add considerable time to product development, such as coordination, culture, language, time zones, and a lot of dead time that one team would experience if another was late in delivery, for example.

We can’t turn the clock back on product development since the expertise for various segments of complex product development is best served by a global team. However, putting on a nationalist hat, previously teams all worked for one company, in similar time zones and had strong connection and communication since they all spoke the same language, and could develop products more expeditiously from having worked together extensively over the years. This is lost in these complex product development projects where people who have never worked together, are thrust together to develop a product.

This real time collaborative model takes into account the various languages and points of view, and the time needed to build relationships with people who have never worked together before.

One of the key findings for these complex projects is that there is a fair amount of wasted time as work time averages:

~54% Direct Work
~30% Coordination
~16% Less Useful Time

The key takeaway is that coordination is often way underestimated in these complex product development projects across multiple countries. It’s better to run the model earlier in the process, so as to re-schedule or re-work pieces to reduce the less productive coordination time. GPD’s model is agent based on simulation models about how teams make choices and includes the last 30-40 years of research of behaviors in engineering work.

In conclusion, product development professionals face:

A decline in judgment based on experience alone. Traditional centralized and detailed plans ignore and misrepresent the complexity of projects.

Coordination – Interaction of teams to satisfy dependence across subsystems can be 35% of the effort, cost and duration of these development projects.

Choosing the best coordination architecture can lead to a 20% improvement in time/cost performance and will improve your competitiveness! Judgment through situation awareness is also gained.

Improve Your Competitiveness: Adopt Technology & Pharmacology to Boost Intelligence

Jamais Cascio

Jamais Cascio

I read “Get Smart” without any reference to Maxwell Smart by Jamais Cascio in the July/Aug Atlantic Online magazine. The focus of the article was on how technology is making us smarter.  Those who don’t take advantage of technology and pharmacology might be at a competitive disadvantage, increasingly so in the future.

We are still biased towards near-term solutions and winners will need to plan for and understand long-term risks.  Today we are getting smarter through what Jamais describes as intelligence augmentation.

While Nicholas Carr (“Is Google Making Us Stupid“) argues that the Internet with its information dense, hyperlink-richness makes it harder for us to engage in deep, relaxed contemplation, Steven Johnson (Everything Bad is Good), argues that the increasing complexity of the media we engage with, is making us smarter. With this intelligence, we are able to make connections and see patterns in order to avoid being overwhelmed by this information glut.

As a competitive intelligence professional, I am expected to uncover patterns to predict where a competitor, the market or technology is going, so ” getting smarter” really resonates, especially from the information glut, never mind the increased connections due to social networks.

What’s exciting about the future is how tools for managing information overload are being developed. Fluid intelligence, the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, independent of this knowledge, is what competitive intelligence professionals do today. Just imagine how much more powerful we’ll be in the future.

When I interviewed some competitive technical intelligence (CTI) experts for my chapter in CI Foundation’s Competitive Technical Intelligence, these experts were already using some great visualization tools to harness the tons of information they must process to compete in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, for example. Several experts cited Eastport Analytics as a resource to help CTI managers select the right software tools to support their needs for monitoring, mapping and analyzing the competitive marketplace. Eastport Analytics offers 450 software tools and stays informed with all the latest software changes, upgrades and new providers.

Jamais writes about the development of attention filters or focus assistants which would focus our attention on messages that are important to us, based on learning what kinds of messages we are reading and which we discard through the various media we subscribe to. We would move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one of “continuous augmented awareness,” as the messages we don’t care about would be faded on our display screen, for example. As our capacity to provide that filter becomes faster and richer, it becomes akin to collaborative intuition.

Pharmacology can also help enhance the brain. Modafinil, originally developed to keep people alert for an extended period of time like 30 hours, also provides cognitive enhancements, such as pattern recognition, spatial planning and sharpens focus and alertness. There are other brain boosting drugs, but the point is that people seeking competitive advantage may include brain drugs to improve their competitiveness.

The article also goes into the development of an artificial mind which would continue to modify itself to get smarter. That seems pretty far out to me.

However, I agree with the conclusions of the article that by 2030, we’ll live in a world where sophisticated foresight, detailed analysis and insight and augmented awareness will be commonplace. Many professionals will use simulation and modeling in their daily work as the supporting technology will be readily available.

While cultures may adopt these technologies differently, hopefully our global diversity will help us be cooperative and cope with the various world dangers such as the climate crisis, energy shortage, growing population density, global hunger, global healthcare and the spread of pandemics, which will require the greatest possible insight, creativity and innovation.

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