BBC Radio 4’s Listening Project is a quirky vignette into the very real lives of ordinary British people. The conversations recorded and broadcast are unscripted and undirected; so it is interesting that in everyone that I have listened to, the outcome of the conversation was a deeper understanding of each other – everyone taking part is closely connected to their counterpart in the conversation. From the greater understanding the conversations also lead to an awareness of where each member of the conversation has to help the other out.
Recently I was commissioned to take part in a evening CIO roundtable debate for a tier one service provider. What attracted me to this commission was that from the outset the vendor was using the roundtable dinner debate and the following day’s customer event as a listening project.
CIOs regularly tell me, with a pained expression, of the sales pitches they receive in person, over the phone, via LinkedIn, on email and how today’s CIO personal assistant is a ruthless information gatekeeper with the skills that I recall being drummed into me as a trainee journalist on local newspapers and later in life by great editors.
CIOs and I have seen organisations fail to utilise networking events correctly and spend inordinate amounts of time discussing their sales channel and not once learn what are the needs of the customer.
So it was powerful to be part of an event and a conversation where not once were the terms “product roadmap” or “leverage our power” used. Instead “talk to us” was a phrase I heard a number of times, words like listen, explain and questions such as “describe that to me” were circulating the three tables at the event.
Icon Business Media only took part in the evening networking debate, but it was clear that the next day all parties were prepared to be frank, that the hosts were aware that in opening themselves up for listening, they might hear some things that challenged their perceptions. Equally though, CIOs were committing time to this event and this provider, which suggests a working relationship as no commitment is ever 100 percent perfect and always requires effort.
The panel of advisors to Horizon, all eminent business technology leaders, regularly describe how the business world is changing, that new working methods, new platforms and new language are changing the business landscape. These are challenging times for CIOs and as a result, these will be challenging times the supplier market. CIOs and suppliers may not be overcoming dyslexia, debilitating physical disabilities or cross-faith challenges, but like some of the most heart warming stories, through listening, respect, mutual rewards and friendship, great outcomes can be achieved in business, as in life.