Active listening (also know as reflective listening) is a fundamental approach to understanding another person’s concerns in any conversation, whether it’s a negotiation about material transfer agreements or research partnerships or hear-to-heart about daily relationships. It extends beyond just asking questions and notably includes repeating what you’ve heard. The speaker knows they’ve been heard and can correct or fine-tune their message. Another great technique called appreciative inquiry is a communications technique that envisions possibilities and works toward best outcomes. Together, these techniques go beyond trying just to find what’s wrong and then fix it. Combined, such techniques are important to successful innovation management and are also powerful productivity tools.
One of my favorite TED talks is by Ernesto Sirolli, a compelling advocate and consultant of economic and community development. He talks about his experiences in international development. And shares a very funny story about hippos who like to eat tomatoes. His experience is a great reminder to ask questions, listen actively and don’t presume to know the answers.