August 10, 2009

Can you claw through clutter to hear the message?

There's so much chatter going on around us that sometimes it is hard for us to listen to what's being said in a meaningful way. The conversations erupt around us as white noise. We nod knowingly as we catch drifting words that seem to merit a response.

I'm in the midst of catchup, a lull in my daily routines allowing me to sort through overflowing inboxes for email, blog posts and that stuff delivered by the postmaster.

What I've discovered is the clutter created by volume and change means I've missed some messages I normally would have heard. The bigger problem is how can I create systems so that I don't miss messages I need to hear.

Beth Kanter just presented a workshop on listening at a conference with a theme of "Making Media Connections." She suggested in a post titled Are You a Listening Organization? that there are three models for organizations.
  • Centralized listener
  • Listening Team
  • The Listening Organization
See Kanter's post for her explanations.

Not all organizations are formal, of course.

Former Flint Journal reporter Matt Bach has taken on the role of centralized listener for Flint, looking online for all mentions of the area on blogs, news sites and other web pages. He shares his finds via email with a group of people who are interested in the community's image.

Another centralized listener that I know of is Carol Lee Spages, who runs an email list called Green Blood News that frequently features articles about Girl Scouts.

Email and mailing lists are tools I know. I've been challenging myself to learn more about Publish2, a tool designed for collaborative linking. I've been playing with it, trying to find ways to expand the team listening for news about Michigan news or Advance Publications. As I've watched the media-watching blogs collapse,I 've been thinking of what can be used to help watch the watchdogs.

Beth Kantor, of course, goes beyond that simplicity of three models. She shares 58 slides that are a step-by-step to Listening Literacy. The presentation walks you through key skills, essential tools, the art of responding, and "listening in a blizzard." It's a lot for one workshop, but her slides will help guide anyone hoping to listen.

Happy listening.


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