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Listen Longer

I was in meeting the other day with an engineering design company and I heard this...

"An engineer will nearly always have the answer before you've finished asking the question."

The company D2E prides itself on listening longer because it believes a more appropriate and elegant solution comes out in the end. Their process may cost clients more but the end design often ends up saving them money.

It got me thinking how often my brain computes what it thinks is a good creative solution whilst I am still being briefed on a communication challenge. To be honest, it's almost painful for me just to sit and listen and not begin to solve - such is the thrill of visualising and describing vivid ideas in what feels like the eureka moment. But is it actually premature... immature?

I saw a picture in my mind of a bow-string being drawn backwards before the arrow is released and how much harder the final few inches of the pull-back action is - and yet also how critical  it is to making sure that arrow flies far and hits the target. In archery its all about that last few seconds when everything is under maximum tension, your arm is almost trembling under the pressure.

So this is the new challenge I have set myself - to listen longer, even if it feels hard restraining the impulse to blurt out an idea I can clearly see and feel excited about. I want to hold on to that arrow a few seconds longer and come out with better and possibly less expensive solutions.

It’s strange because, I'm interview people as a profession - surely I of all people should know the power of patient listening - but the journey from good to great, I continually realise, is never easy.