Verizon’s ads about cellphone reception feature the tag line “Can you hear me now?” They are a great demonstration of the benefits of a good cellphone network. However, they do not represent the gold standard for knowledge management. In KM, it isn’t enough merely to hear — we actually have to listen.
It’s our inability to listen properly to our users that gets in the way of providing systems that meet their expressed needs. And what makes listening so difficult? In some cases, it’s just our unwillingness to dig beneath the surface of what we’re hearing. At other times, it’s our preconceived notions that stop us from understanding what we’re being told. Here are some examples of what I mean:
When they say “I can’t find anything,” we think “You’re not trying hard enough.”
– Perhaps we didn’t try hard enough.
When they say “I don’t understand how this works,” we think “Why didn’t you attend the training session?”
– Perhaps we didn’t make it easy enough.
This post is not intended to be an exercise in self-flagellation, but rather a reminder that our success hinges on the quality of the conversation we have with our users. The point of conversation is to communicate and learn, to understand and to be understood. You can’t do any of that if you aren’t really listening.
[Photo Credit: hotdogger13]