This week’s guest post comes from Jeff Schott, our colleague with the CEB Communications Leadership Council. We’ve added a Market Insights spin to help with your specific communications challenges.
Every morning, during my commute to work, I listen to a radio podcast from one of my top five favorite programs. The usual rotation includes the TED Radio Hour, Planet Money, Snap Judgment, RadioLab, and the program whose recent episode inspired this post, This American Life.
As someone who spends his days researching Communications, I was highly intrigued when I saw the title of their new episode – Episode 511: The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About. I was certain I could correctly guess a handful. My guesses? Politics and religion, for sure; all things related to sexuality; probably ethnicity.
Imagine my surprise when none, not a single one, of my guesses appeared on their list. Zero.
I fought my first instinct to write it off as “a terrible list” and decided to keep listening as they described the criteria. The list was taken from 19th century French etiquette guidelines. The topics on their list were off limits not so much because they were controversial, but because they were boring to others. Here’s the list.
- Don’t talk about how you slept… because no one cares
- Don’t talk about your health… because no one cares
- Don’t talk about your diet… (I think you get the picture)
- Don’t talk about your “woman” problems
- Don’t talk about your dreams
- Don’t talk about your commuting challenges
- Don’t talk about your money (more so because it is decidedly “vulgar” rather than boring)
Two things struck me about the nature of the things on this list. The first seemed pretty obvious — all seven, perhaps with the exception of “money,” are typically brought up in the form of a complaint. “I drank caffeine late last night and couldn’t get to sleep until 3 AM. I feel horrible today!” or “You’ll never believe how bad traffic was on the way to the office. There was an accident on the highway…”
Takeaway #1 = Listening to others’ complaints is boring, if not annoying.
The second thing that struck me is more obvious when you see the list written out. All seven off-limit topics are about YOU — “your health,” “your bad commute,” “your dream,” etc. I can’t share in the experience (except to offer my own complaints) because it happened to you and only you.
Takeaway #2 = Listening to others talk about things that only they, themselves, can relate to is boring.
I couldn’t help but think that this second point nicely illustrates a challenge we’ve seen in insight communication over the last few years. If Market Insights aren’t careful about how they present findings and recommendations, stakeholders will tune them out.
We have seen how leading MI departments think smarter about embedding knowledge throughout the organization and ensuring that insights, even those that require a change to existing business practice, are acted upon. And you do have to do more than just talk about YOUR insights: it’s all about building and applying business acumen.
We recently pulled some tools and tactics together into an Insight Activation Toolkit to help you plan for actionability at 3 stages:
- Before insight generation: planning for organizational resistance and finding supporters and detractors.
- Publicizing insights: exploiting existing information flows within the organization and engineering learning moments to make the insights stick.
- Re-introducing insights: prioritizing existing insights for re-introduction based on business opportunity and available bandwidth for action.
I think a big takeaway from this list that many of us can benefit from is to talk less about “me” and more about “we.” It is through these “we” conversations that we spark two-way dialogue and build connections.