I recently listened to an excellent TED talk by Celeste Headlee on how to have better conversations.
Conversational ability has always been an important skill, and it is becoming even more important as technology further increases the frequency and pace with which we communicate both verbally and in writing.
Here are the 3 strategies which most resonated with me:
1. Listen to understand, not reply
2. Don’t equate your experiences with their’s
3. Stay out of the weeds
You can listen to the 12 minute talk below.
A friend recently asked why I use a picture from my childhood days as my social media profile picture. I use the same picture, taken from my third grade yearbook, on both my Twitter and Facebook profiles.
The reason is that, whenever I feel as though I’ve experienced all that there is to experience, or learned all that there is to learn, something happens which makes me realize how much more I have yet to experience and learn.
In other words, although I might no longer be a child in terms of my age, in terms of the experiences and learnings that I have yet to face, I will always remain a child.
My social media profile picture is a reminder of this beautiful fact.
One of the types of content that I share on this blog is learnings from personal experiences. These include learnings relevant to startups as well as learnings about life in general.
However, you don’t always have the benefit of applying an existing learning from a past experience directly to a problem. Sometimes a new problem emerges for which you don’t have directly relevant previous experience. You don’t know exactly what the expected outcome maximizing approach is to the new problem.
In these cases, rather than walk without a compass, it’s useful to try to think of analogous problems you faced in the past and your learnings from these analogous problems. A problem is simply a set of weights assigned to different dimensions. Although the new problem may be uniquely different than anything you’ve seen before, several of its weights on specific dimensions are likely similar to other problems you’ve seen in the past.
Thinking about the attributes which the new problem shares with other problems you’ve seen in the past, reflecting on your learnings regarding the approaches that work if a problem has a specific attribute, and bringing together these learnings from different problems which together have all the attributes of the new problem takes you a long way towards getting to the right solution.