How entrepreneurship skills need to start with the right kind of listening!
And just like that we’re back in the full swing of the academic year. Young minds are steered, on task, over various curricula and subjects. One of the areas often overlooked, which is picking up steam in the educational arena, is entrepreneurship. This month, we’ll focus on a special skill that is pivotal in creating experiences, projects, and innovation for others.
Often associated with the tech entrepreneur are the flashy ideas, demos, and pitches of how their “X will disrupt market Y.” Their slick brand has emerged from their product. Their product has developed over numerous tests within their target demographics. What skill is used at the early stages before the funders write their checks? It isn’t from the mouth of the sharp entrepreneur, but rather their ears. Listening, really listening, is a skill that we can all improve on. This skill will not only improve our design, but also create a positive work flow within our team and other partners.
People will argue that listening is easy. After all, folks tend to not have an issue expressing how they feel and why something “isn’t right.” Look at the millions of comments generated across the various social media platforms every day. We will now break down several kinds of listening. For more information on this topic, please explore the work of Otto Scharmer.
First, we’ll explore the type of listening which we can refer to as downloading. In this form a listener will simply consume what is being said and offer confirmation of statements made. The listener remains at the center of attention. Once the conversation has ended it’s on to the next, because “they don’t understand my grand vision!” The design is serving the designer.
Being aware enough to avoid simply downloading, we can move the center of attention away from ourselves towards listening factually. We can start to record observations, even though they might contradict our previous design. The product iterations will bend in what we want to achieve and will be adaptive to take into account what people are saying.
From there, we can use empathic listening. Are we able to listen and truly put ourselves in the shoes of those for whom we’re designing? How does our own experience, knowledge, and product meld into the larger culture at hand? There are several methods to explore this including strategies from IDEO, LUMA Institute, etc.
Finally, when we’re truly listening and reacting accordingly, we can reach a state of flow. This creates a generative dialogue where the curiosity of both interviewer and interviewee is piqued. The product will reach new depths which were not foreseeable.
TLDR; Whether it be the next Google or the next sneaker, before time and technology is poured into it, we must first learn to listen. Listening can take many forms from simply downloading what’s said to creating a generative dialogue which influences product development. A young entrepreneur might be eager to start off with their mouths, but should consider using those awkward shaped things found on the sides of our noggin.
Digital Dragon offers Entrepreneurship programs for all ages, these creative classes are designed to help students develop listening and tech skills for future endeavors.
John Balash was instrumental in Digital Dragon’s launch in 2013 as its first Curriculum Director and is now back in the fold as a consultant on all the latest and greatest in tech education.This is John’s latest contribution to a monthly blog series we’ve launched, Tech News from the Frontier. John is the Director of Educational Engagement at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. John has worked on educationally focused initiatives with clients ranging from D.A.R.P.A. to Disney. Working from both sides of the desk, you can find John in classrooms and conferences around the world exploring new uses for technologies in learning environments.