Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Here’s the transcription of my Monday Morning Movie

Today, I want to talk about the power of, and importance of, being open to new ideas and feedback.

I just spent a weekend at a conference. It was a bunch of people learning about the speaking profession. I’ve been speaking for 20 years, and I’ve had my own business for over a dozen years. So I’ve heard a lot of advice over time.

We had breakout sessions where we got advice from the instructor and from others in the group about how we can improve our business. It was fascinating to listen and observe the way some people in the group solicited advice, and how they accepted that advice.

For example, there was one person in the group, her response to anything that was said was, “We thought about that before. We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. We’re doing that right now.” In some cases, she’d say, “I knew you’d say that.”  I found it really interesting because I wondered if in the time that this individual was receiving feedback, whether or not she received any value at all. Basically, every response to every idea was, “We’ve done it. We’ve thought about it. We’ve tried it; didn’t work. We’re doing it. Knew you’d say that.” Interestingly, this was a person who’s relatively new to the profession.

There was another person who took their time and talked the entire time. When the timer went off, everybody just looked at each other and thought, “That was interesting.” There was no opportunity, no opening for feedback; no opening or opportunity for input.

Then, it was my turn.

I asked my question and then listened to everything as though it was the very first time I heard any of the advice before.  Even if I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work.  Even if I’ve thought about it before and decided not to do it.  Even if I’ve never tried it. It doesn’t matter, whatever was said, I was acting as though, and thinking as though, it was the first time I ever heard it.

I have to say, for me, it was a magical experience. Instead of my “being right” all the time, instead of having to be the expert who knows all the answers (which is what I tend to do in my profession), I acted as though I was the novice. I was the person who’s never thought of these things before. I gave up the need to have the answers. I gave up the need to look good in the eyes of others as the person who knows everything. Instead I just responded, “Wow. That’s a great idea. I have not thought about that before. Let me explore that.” This made it a very powerful experience for me.

Think about yourself. When you are engaging customers, colleagues, friends, or experts; how do you naturally respond? Are you the person who has the answers? Are you protecting what you look like by trying to always act as though you knew the answer already? Or, are you willing to be vulnerable? Are you able to put yourself out there and say, “I don’t know the answer; I really want advice”?  If you’ve heard something before, really listen to it as though it was the first time you’re hearing it.

Are you a great listener or are you a great talker? Do you try to impress everybody with what you know, or do you sort of state your challenge, which is your vulnerability, and just sit back and say, “Please help me”?

I’m absolutely convinced that successful business owners get so wrapped up in what that know – their identity of being the expert, the person who solved the problems before – that they don’t allow themselves to open up to the input of others.

If you were to get a bad review on Yelp, is your natural inclination to say, “Man, that person’s an idiot. If we tried to fix every single problem like that, we’d be out of business”? Or, do you say, “That’s really interesting. Thank you for the feedback”? It doesn’t mean you have to do anything with it. You can’t solve every single problem; that’s the reality of business. But if you are appreciative of all input – good, bad, and ugly – that has to put you in a better position. It has to open you up to new insights. It has to allow you to see things that you would not see if you were closed and thought that it was your way or the highway.

Think about your business. Think about the way you run it. Think about your interactions with people. Are you open? Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable? Are you gracious when people provide input to you? Or, is your response, “I’ve done that, I know that, I’m the expert”?

When you’re engaging people, do you have to be the one who talks, or can you be the one who listens? Can you be the one who throws out one of your concerns and just wait for people to make a contribution?

When you’re in a social group, are you always making yourself look good, or are you making others look good? Although it’s a slightly different conversation, I think it’s all related. Get into the habit of making others be the heroes – our clients, customers, colleagues, and friends. Make them feel great. Make the people who give you advice, feedback, or criticism feel great. This opens you up to a whole new set of ideas. And it makes you much more attractive to be around, which means you will attract more people into your life.

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