Innovation isn't simply a nifty byproduct of a forward-thinking business strategy—it's a necessity, particularly in today's business climate, where things move at breakneck speed. And you know what's an underrated catalyst for this? It's not the latest tech or an army of consultants, but an age-old practice: 'long' conversations. Here's how it plays out.
1. Cutting Through the Noise
Let's be honest—long conversations are like a scalpel. They allow us to peel back the layers of an issue, get to the heart of the matter, and identify the root causes. Instead of firefighting and putting band-aids on issues, these conversations allow us to tackle problems head-on and lay the groundwork for innovative solutions.
2. The Business Case for Slow Talk
Long conversations aren't popular in corporate culture. In fact, they're often seen as a luxury we can't afford. The culprit? A culture that equates busyness with productivity. Yet, I would argue that the long conversations detract from the instant communication norm and hold space for depth and exploration essential for innovation.
3. The Long Game of Productivity
The need for immediate outcomes is a blinkered view of productivity. It's the short sprint versus the marathon, the instant gratification versus the long-term yield. In reality, productivity is a marathon. It's long-term. And the long conversations that seem like a 'time-sink' now are an investment in future productivity, seeding understanding and collaboration that, given time, will yield innovation.
4. Making the Most of Long Conversations
Just to be clear, we're not championing aimless chatter here. We're advocating for conversations conducted in the space of active listening, empathy, and respectful disagreements. To make them productive, these discussions need structure and a facilitator capable of navigating the conversation's flow without suppressing diversity of thought.
5. Teahouses as the Predecessor of Innovation Labs - Steven Johnson's Take
In his book "Where Good Ideas Come From", Steven Johnson points out the historical significance of conversation as a driver for innovation. He cites the example of 18th-century coffeehouses and teahouses—places of extended dialogues that spurred breakthroughs across disciplines. Now that's a compelling case for embedding long conversations in a company's DNA.
6. Right People, Right Topics
Remember, not all long conversations are equal. We need the right conversations with the right people to ignite company-wide innovation. By 'right people,' I don't mean just the management or a designated creative team—I mean a spectrum of voices from across the company, bringing diverse expertise and perspectives to the table. It's about inclusion, allowing everyone to own the innovation process.
In a nutshell, long conversations might seem anachronistic, but they hold massive potential for driving innovation. It's high time we redefine productivity, make room for these conversations, and use them as a lever for innovation. As they say, sometimes the old ways are the best—and the art of long conversation could be one such gem.