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The Power of Listening in the Global Hi-Tech Arena


The Power of Listening
in the Global Hi-Tech Arena

 

The diversity of today’s workforce makes listening more challenging. “Listening” in the international hi-tech world refers to dealing with multiple cultures, disseminating applications used by people all over the world, crowdsourcing among widespread, %d7%a2%d7%95%d7%aa%d7%a7-%d7%a9%d7%9c-shutterstock_196257572heterogeneous audiences, and more.

 

Cross-Cultural Listening

It is now common in many workplaces for team projects to engage professionals and target consumers from numerous countries. Communicating well across different cultures involves listening closely enough to not only hear the words but also be aware of the speaker’s true meaning. Even when everyone is speaking English, much is happening below the surface, meaning that in different cultures there is a different, important significance to how things are phrased, which things are left unsaid, and even the way body gestures are used.

For example, when a Japanese businessperson smiles courteously at you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s pleased with how the negotiations are proceeding. He might not even be the decision maker. When an American tells you the subject is very interesting and she might want to meet at a later time to discuss it further, it probably means she is not interested and the deal is a no-go on her end. A Frenchman may raise his voice at you during a meeting, but not be angry in the slightest; whereas the Englishman sitting next to him might actually be angry but will never show it. The French tend to be emotional, whereas the British typically hide their true feelings. The examples, admittedly generalizations, are varied and endless.

Communication is a two-way process, involving both the communicative skills of the speaker and the listening skills of the interlocutor. Richard D. Lewis (“When Cultures Collide”) has pointed out that different cultures have different communication styles and different listening habits: Germans listen for information. People from the UK listen politely, add some smiles and nods, and only occasionally interrupt for clarification. Americans listen in spurts while people in Sweden cooperate and even whisper some feedback. In Finland there are no interruptions and in Japan listeners never disrupt the speaker’s flow.

On the other end of the spectrum are Israelis. Their characteristic impatience and eagerness to voice their own opinions make them poor listeners. Israelis often interrupt in the middle of their interlocutors’ sentences, primarily because they always feel they have something very important to add, but also because – in Israeli culture – interrupting indicates enthusiasm and interest in the topic.

Prof. Avi Kluger of the Hebrew University has said that the choice to listen also encompasses the courage and ability to change while accepting the Other, because if you really listen to the other person, you can receive new information that may change your mind. I would add that throughout the world, regardless of the culture they come from, people love being listened to. Listening is the secret to creating a bond and building trust in personal and business relationships. I would add that God gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we can use them accordingly; we should listen more and speak less.

 

Listen to Crowdsourcing

Today’s business is more complicated than ever.  Every leader feels the pressure of developing the most innovative product, creating a high-performance workplace and producing results and profits. When dealing with the rapid change and uncertainty of global business, patience is only getting more difficult to foster in a world moving at lightning speed.

On one hand, patience and listening are the main tools at our disposal for building good relations of trust, but on the other hand the technological world is so high-pressured and fast-paced that many businesses cannot “waste” time on listening. Perhaps a competitor will be launching a similar or superior product tomorrow? Excessive patience poses the risk of getting you bogged down in planning and processes, and potentially missing the boat, and the buck.

The solution lies in crowdsourcing. By enlisting the services of large numbers of people via the Internet, companies strengthen their ties with customers while also saving time and keeping costs down. Devoting countless hours to conducting internal meetings with company experts has been replaced by introducing products on the market very early on, often in an incomplete or beta version, in order to receive user feedback. Two such methods are: MVP (Minimum Viable Product), to quickly validate a startup at an early stage (read more in a previous blog: https://olm-consulting.com/the-connection-between-the-term-mvp-and-the-israeli-innovation-culture/), and A/B testing.

A/B testing is a technique of comparing two versions of a webpage or app against each other to decide which one performs better. Two or more alternatives are shown to users at random, and statistical analysis is used to determine which variation performs better. This method actually allows a greater number of users to try the products and give feedback. Then the product may be launched more quickly than ever before, while also listening to the customers and building up trust by offering them the product that they as a group prefer. This is an illustration of active, real-time listening that leads to faster, more effective decision making. (Read more at https://www.optimizely.com/ab-testing/.)

This blog has in fact discussed two meaningful challenges in the contemporary world of global technology:

  1. The understanding that people from different cultures communicate differently and listen differently.
  2. The need to get new technology on the market as fast as possible, while listening to the audience of users during the product’s earliest stages.

 

These two subjects are both critical to doing business successfully in today’s fast-moving technological world. Although decisions must be made rapidly, it’s good business sense to take the necessary time to listen to your collaborators and end users, while also taking cultural differences into account. Just one example would be how the same product is sometimes found in different countries with various modifications, as the victorious result of listening to user feedback and localizing the item. Integrating the two points raised here, by constantly seeking input and listening accurately, can help you achieve international business success.

 

For information about Osnat Lautman and the services offered by OLM Consulting, please visit www.olm-consulting.com.

 

OLM Consulting Founder

Osnat Lautman is a well-known intercultural expert and the author of the Amazon bestselling book ‘Israeli Business Culture’. Osnat is passionate about cultures, connecting humans and breaking through culture barriers. She created the ISRAELI™ model of Israeli business characteristics (Informal, Straightforward, Risk-Taking, Ambitious, Entrepreneurial, Loud, Improvisational) to reveal the foundations of the Israeli innovative culture. Osnat supports many organizations and individuals to effectively connect and engage with Israelis, avoid misunderstanding and maximize the value of combining the innovative Israeli spirit into a multi culture environment.

Osnat is the founder of OLM Consulting and her customer include the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, The Jewish Agency, Verint, NYU Tel Aviv, the British Embassy, the Swedish Embassy, the Belgium Embassy, FIDF, Israel Defense Ministry delegation in New York, JCC Association, National Bank of Australia, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 888 Holdings, Corning, SkyVision, ObserveIT, MX1, Israel Export Institute, StartApp, Tel Aviv Municipality, and many others.

Osnat lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, from 2009 to 2013. During this time, she started her extensive research on the differences between Israeli and non-Israeli business cultures, including video interviews with businesspeople from numerous origins. The recorded discussions are incorporated into her lectures and workshops for demonstration purposes.

Osnat holds:
M.A in Social Science and Communications, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Certificate in Organizational Development, New York University, New York
Coach License from Co-Active Training Institute, Israel

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