Changing the Conversation(s)

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“Sometimes being different feels a lot like being alone.”

–     Lindsey Stirling, pop musician

And sometimes, being vulnerable, feeling alone, is the best way to change the conversation.  It can be the best way to draw a team together for the common good.

“Ask dumb questions, make dumb solutions,” suggests Patrick Lencioni, in “Getting Naked,” one of his amazing business fables.

Difference makers find a way to change the conversation.  Strike that.  They find a way to change the conversations, plural.

There are three conversations we need to change to impart meaningful, sustainable, difference-making change.

The first is the conversation in our own head.  The things that we tell ourselves, that we have come to believe just because they’ve become rote, the perspectives and opinions that we have must be challenged, and the best person to challenge them is us.  It makes those around us more comfortable with the idea of changing the conversation in their heads, which tees up the second conversation we need to change…the conversations in our team.

If Joe is always the voice of reason, are we missing the opportunity for Joe to ask dumb questions or make dumb suggestions, the kind that make the rest of us approach the matter from a different perspective.  If Tammy is always the “Hey, what if we…?” person, having her adopt the voice of reason might be empowering.  It’s not just about playing “devil’s advocate” either, it’s about altering the way we see and process information.  It’s about challenging the status quo with the intent of improving it.  And, in a group setting, it ain’t likely to be easy.

So, here’s an idea.  We all know where we sit in meetings, right?  In a recurring meeting, it’s pretty common for the boss to sit in his or her seat, and the rest of us to sit in ours, even though there are no seats assigned.  Want to get a start on changing the conversation?  The next time that meeting starts, have everyone move to a different seat.  You may be surprised; a) at the level of discomfort and b) at the impact on perspective — the free-flow of new ideas.

Finally, our goal ultimately has to be to change the conversation in our market.  If we’re a market leader, it’s particularly important, because, as Ries and Trout taught us way back in 1987, only the leader should attack the leader directly.

When we talk to ourselves differently, and we talk with one another differently, we’ll be read to talk to the market differently, and the market will respond.

Changing the conversation(s) is table stakes for difference makers.


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