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You can keep your “business language”: that’s not meaningful conversation

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I was thinking over the weekend more about Twitter, and what in enables, or disables, in terms of communication, after mentioning some enterprisey use cases on Friday.

What’s the best response to the Why Blogging/Twitter/Facebook is asinine: “Oh its just what you had for lunch” Frame? The argument occurs again and again and its not clear what the response should be, especially since I do sometimes tweet what I eat, as do Chris, Raven (he now has a dedicated Raven Eats feed) and others. When I talk to people for any length of time they’re going to find out I am a foodie- its one of the things that makes tick. People that know me well, business contacts or otherwise, know stuff like that. Its part of the conversation.

I was thinking about real communications, that is, conversational communication- the kind when your synapses start firing… when my synapses started firing. I might have even been watching Studio60 when it came to me. Real conversations don’t stay on topic. They can’t. “Lack of focus” doesn’t make conversations less compelling. On the contrary it makes them bearable: the human brain is quite capable of getting on with background task processing while doing something else. Boredom is one of the quickest routes to poor productivity. Repetition can be great if it engenders flow (the Tao). Boredom, not so much.

How many business meetings have you gone to, or called into, that were completely pointless, even though they were merciless “on topic”. Quite a few I should think. Business language also tends to be pretty sterile, and doesn’t favor narrative flow.

Will I really learn more from reading a white paper, or a newspaper article, than from talking to people about something? I don’t think so. The best learning experiences are personal.

Some of this feels like duh – its called the Cluetrain, dummy. But then I keep running into people that haven’t ever read the Manifesto.

The Cluetrain Manifesto should definitely be on all journalism classes.

The Cluetrain Manifesto should also be a core aspect of any Tech Marketing course.

After posting some related thoughts Friday it was great to come in this morning and read James McGovern’s When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation? He riffs off a blog I wrote a while ago If Markets Are Conversations Then Twitter is Money.

James says:

“It is sad, as I have been so heads down on my current activities that I truly haven’t had a meaningful face-to-face conversation in the last several weeks. Now is the time that many folks in large enterprises are preparing for their 2008 budget and get consumed by tweaking numbers, creating over-hyped sales pitches, flooding each other with emails and otherwise forgetting about the human on the other end.

There are lots of benefits to face-to-face conversations. While they take longer and most certain put pressure on the elusive work-life balance, it does help reduce the headache of managing your email inbox, especially if your shop institutes mailbox size quotas. Now I know why I am always in mail jail…” [Italics mine]

That’s the basic point I am trying to make. A business focused conversation is not more meaningful than a “normal” conversation, which is a shame because the market for something to believe in is infinite. The most successful businesses increasingly have conversations with all kinds of stakeholders. Social media can accelerate those conversations.

Let me just finish with one of the reasons I like Twitter so much- you might call it Twitter as social glue. We are all busy people at RedMonk (all three of us) and we live in different time zones. We’re always traveling and we don’t get much time to catch up face to face (almost never happens). But I don’t only want to know What Stephen and Cote Are Working On. Rather I want to know How They Are Doing. Good managers take a view of their people that goes far beyond the tasks they assign. Twitter helps to keep us all in the loop.

update: talking of meaningful conversations the Aloof Architect has some really interesting thoughts on enterprise architecture, pedagogy, and social media, riffing off McGovern.

Do we find ourselves using ‘skip-level’ influence to overcome obstacles to adoption? If so, are there communication mediums we could be using to reach deeper into organizations, touching a wider range of alpha geeks/influencers? Would our effectiveness as leaders improve if we were capitalizing on those mediums?

further updates- I made a very dangerous assumption on this post, which I would like to correct. The assumption – that everyone knows Hugh MacLeod, he of GapingVoid fame. Hugh is a friend of mine, and draws cartoons on the back of business cards (see above). He may well be the best wine marketer in the world. He is certainly the most innovative. These days he into Facebook and Twitter. Blogging- not so much.

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Comment Feed

9 Responses

  1. Great thoughts.
    I’ve never been in a place where I’ve learnt so many things that I didn’t know I wanted to learn – and needed to learn. Of all the new things I learn every day, I reckon the majority of them come from links on Twitter. And because they’re not narrowly focussed on a topic, there’s the chance for seredipitous and surprising connections to be made between what you’re focusing on – things that inform from a wider human or technical perspective.
    And when conversation is littered with intimate details of work and family life, there’s less room for bullshitting, heirarchy and one-upmanship. Not many people are out to puff up themselves or their their theories – they’re just throwing up gems of interest for other people to read and briefly acknowledge.
    It’s holistic, and richer for it.

  2. I thought you thunk that twimping a twinped twimp is like throwing caution to the wind.

  3. Surely it’s a horses for courses thing?

    I agree 100% that a lot of business dialogue is either trite and pointless or so narrowly focussed that it utterly misses the real point.

    But there are all sorts of “type” of real conversation – Which is why there’s just no answer to the question “is there an optimal mode of discourse”.

    You’ve got a black-belt in “Conversational Jazz”, and god knows there have to be more bouncy, ad-libby, “orgy of the synapses”-type conversations in business… But if you’re in a meeting about Audit, or your compliance with FCC regulations then you probably need to keep it dull – It would be hard to tell the SEC “Well we had a meeting about audit… but then Jimbo saw a flower…..”

    So you have to place “conversation” within a spectrum… at one end there must be the dull “exchange of facts” style dialogue. It would be annoying if everytime I asked you the time you were to reply “time for what? time for who?”… I’d like just to know how late I am for my meeting.

    At the other end of the spectrum… where you spend a lot of time living and working (and providing value I hasten to add) there’s a richer more intimate dialogue where knowing how much you enjoyed your Eggs Benedict might trigger a new conversation with you that could lead almost anywhere.

    Gary BarnettSeptember 27, 2007 @ 6:43 amReply
  4. “Message is the medium” – this is a quote I’ve seen somewhere that sums the whole twitter thing in my opinion.
    By exchanging the perhaps less obviously valuable information you keep the information channel open.

  5. hey Zbigniew I believe that’s a quote from Marshall McLuhan – a 60s thinker who came up with the concept of the “global village”. smart dude.

    Gary – great points as ever. I think a number of different modes of discourse have value. but in general, for example, white papers are seldom as valuable as they should be.

  6. Actually it is a paraphrase of that McLuhann quoute which goes the other way around: “The medium is the message”.



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] James Governor – You can keep your âbusiness languageâ: that’s not meaningful conv… – “I don’t only want to know What Stephen and Cote Are Working On. Rather I want to know How They Are Doing. Good managers take a view of their people that goes far beyond the tasks they assign. Twitter helps to keep us all in the loop.” [...]

  2. Is there an “optimal” mode of discourse?…

    James Governor’s Monkchips — You can keep your “business language”: that’s not meaningful conversation
    Is there an “optimal” mode of discourse? Leading question, I know. Framed the way it is, the answer seems obvious: “…

  3. [...] By the way, and perhaps speaking more to the intended point. If you followed the link, did you notice that post by James Governor? Go read it. [...]