Tone Up Your Listening Skills!

I was reading an article this afternoon outlining new security measures being announced by the Canadian Government to “bolster the safety and security of air travel” in response to another threat from terrorist groups. Each time the security agencies think they’ve figured out every possible way of circumventing the system, another idea surfaces. This time? Some Yemeni terrorists decided to hide explosives in toner cartridges. You can read the press release here:

Essentially, you are now prohibited from transporting “large, office size, toner cartridges” by air in Canada.  This includes both passenger luggage and cargo carried on passenger aircraft.  In addition, you can’t carry smaller, home-printer size cartridges to the US in your hand luggage. Notwithstanding whether you have ever been inclined to tote toner around in your carry-on, the implication of these measures on Canadian commerce will probably be minute. This most recent example of security theatre is another in a series of shutting the barn door when the horse has already left the stable.

By now you might be asking, “What’s the connection with our business?” …I won’t keep you in suspense.

Why didn’t some of the most advanced security experts in the world stop this from happening? Because they didn’t think of it. No one dreamed that toner cartridges would become the latest in a long line of inventive threats. Someone outside of their “eye and ear range” did. Despite listening and tracking the “usual suspects” carefully, the experts missed something.

This is the same reason you need to look for new ways to listen to your customers.  You have to keep asking different questions. Most importantly, it’s essential not to ignore the one outlier customer with a wacky idea or problem that needs to be solved. Do this, and they will constantly feed you clues about how to make/do/deliver better products and services. They’ll also help you uncover what your competitors are doing for them that your organization is not.

It’s not enough to present them with the alternatives you and your internal team have developed.  Make it a habit of just listening…to what they say about you and your competition, to how they talk about your company. Pay attention to the problems you are solving for them, but more importantly, to the ones you are creating. And when all that is said and done, keep in mind that somewhere out there, there are implausible, unusual, or irrational ideas may just catch you off guard – so let go of the logical and the rational, and start thinking about what’s impossible.

If you need help understanding how to do this…give us a call.  We promise to listen!

Steve and Megann



Make better decisions, get better results, grow your business. We use a deep toolkit of specialized techniques help clarify your objectives, identify decisions that must be made, and eliminate knowledge gaps, resulting in strategy with a firmer foundation and better results.

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