A Bit Of Anecdotal Evidence On Why Listening In Business Is Paramount

It would be hard to imagine anyone, no matter the discipline, that hasn’t heard some version of the old adage of: “Listen more than you talk.”

As a person who helps teach business leaders how to hone, or learn new skills. One of the traits I try to instill in anyone that will listen (pun intended) is this…

One of the ways you’ll know that you’re actually improving your skills, no matter what level you are beginning from, is how often and how instinctively you begin realizing, then extrapolating, meanings for its significance – in real-time.

The above may seem a little bit hard to understand for those unfamiliar with the true meaning of this discipline, especially when it comes to trying to explain it in such a limited way as in this post. (e.g., This would be explained in detail, with real examples in one of my 1/2 day or such courses)

So, what I would like to do is offer up two examples, consisting of 3 videos, which have shown up over the past few days and let’s see if you can extrapolate a few pieces of pertinent information which would be very valuable if you were, let’s say, involved in any type of business.

I’ll give you one hint: It pertains to Silicon Valley. I’ll reveal what my take away is at the bottom of this post, let’s see if you hear what I hear. Call it a real-time, real-life example as to illustrate how important it is to truly be able to listen.

This is a necessary skill that has to be both developed, honed, as well as practiced if you’re going to be the consummate professional.

(And remember: No “peeking” If you do, you’ll miss the point entirely.)

Note: I’m using direct links to YouTube™ so there’s no need to worry about if I’m sending you off to some clandestine site within cyberspace. Although in today’s world, people are beginning to feel that way about YouTube. But I digress.

So here we go…

First: Here is a video interview about automation in pizza making and delivery by TechCrunch™ from 2016. It’s only about 3 minutes long, but it’s important to listen from beginning to end. Here’s the direct link to it via YouTube: (Click here)

Next: After you’ve watched the first, I would like you to watch this next one. Same basic report, just a different interview on the same company by Engadget™. Again, only about 3 minutes long, but it’s important to watch from beginning to end. Here’s the direct link, again via YouTube: (Click Here)

Now that you’ve done the above, I want you to do the same with the next one which was posted the other day by James Altucher. This one is a bit different in context, but there’s a reason why it’s germane to the two above. Again, it’s only about 3 minutes long. Same criteria about watching as the above. Here’s the direct link to it again, via YouTube: (Click Here)

So with the above complete (and you’re not cheating, right?) my answer, or interpretations below…

After listening to the first two videos pertaining to pizza. Did you pick up the wording, as well as the descriptions as it pertained to not just the workers, but the robots? Here’s a hint: The people in the video are referred to as “humans” nearly every time they are referenced. The robots on the other hand? All given names. e.g., Pepe, Giorgio, Marta, Leonard, and so on.

This isn’t just some aberration in my view. This is (all opinion of course) scripted, purposeful, focus grouped, language as to try to give the impression that it’s not about replacing people with robots. i.e., It’s about robots “working with” people.

But if you listen closely, it’s the people who are being intentionally morphed from “people” to expendable humans within the chain and replaced with the machines or “robots” which are now personified. e.g., People are referred to via the impersonal wording of “humans” and the impersonal robots have all adopted the personification to delineate them from humans with names.

The people, more often than not, are referred to in the way one used to describe a robot in conversation. Here’s an example.

The old: “Here is where Fred prepares the dough for the robot to dispense the sauce. After the sauce is dispensed it moves onto the next step where we have people like John and Maria here putting on the more intricate toppings that a robot just can’t manipulate well. Then it moves onto the next robot where it’s sliced, etc., etc., etc.

Instead, what you heard was the exact opposite. e.g., “This is the station where the human prepares the dough for our robot, he’s called Bruno. Then it’s on to the next station where Maria our sauce dispensing robot measures out the perfect amount of sauce. Then it’s on to Leonardo our pizza cutter. Our humans have very little interaction etc., etc.”

So why is this important you ask? Well, if you listen you hear two very distinct things going on that can give you insight into the current Silicon Valley culture, along with business in general for upcoming trends and how the verbiage, along with the industry, is setting up for the “worker vs robot” paradigm.

Again, usual conversation, even in business, would use terms like, “And here’s where a/our worker, line tech, or Bill our dough stretcher et cetera would be used. Nobody uses the term “human” to describe workers or people when they are in the presence of people. Using the term “human” to describe people is one of the most dehumanizing ways to describe anyone.

And that’s precisely the point. Why?

You’re not putting Bill, or Bob, Joan, or Sally out of work by replacing them with a robot. No, you’re just making the manufacturing process more streamlined by removing any necessary human interactions with one of those fancy new robots we like to call “Leonardo.”

This makes cutting divisions, or moving factories, or displacing employees much easier to digest from the boardroom. i.e., “It’s much easier to replace or expel “humans” and replace them with machines as long as you don’t need to remember any of those human names. And if you do need a human toucch? Just label the machine as a person, like “Roberto” or something else that has a ring to it.

Do not let this point to be lost on you, it’s an important psychological understanding of human nature. i.e., If you are a mid-level manager, and you hear coming from the executive meetings words like “humans” and such. You can just about guarantee one of those “humans” being discussed for replacement or exile probably has a name that curiously sounds or begins like yours.

You can also foresee something similar to this if you’re one of the managers of an entire department, as in: “He’s a great asset to any company, doesn’t take time off, doesn’t need supervision, and doesn’t file work grievances, or ask for pay raises in ‘Human Resources.’ Matter of fact, how much more money can we save if we’re able to downsize and no longer need the ‘Human Resources’ department? After all, with less humans as the underlying scenario implies…”

Are you seeing my point?

So why is the above important a few might be asking? Well, it’s for these reasons…

You’re now hearing how “Silicon Valley” thinks about automation and how they will deal with the unpleasant issue of actively putting people out of work. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing. What I’m pointing out is how the genesis for both describing, as well as the psychological dispensation that will be instilled for easily replacing workers with robots will be both told and sold. And how that will become easily palatable not only to businesses or boardrooms, but the public at large, along with the governments services that will have to deal with the aftermath.

You see it’s much easier to replace, or begin the discussion about replacing 100 humans with 6 robots named “Robbie” than it is to fire or lay off Bill, Bob, Suzzie, Janie, Steve, George, and so forth with a machine.

Or, it’s much easier to extol the virtues of machines when you personify them with names like “Pepe”, because it gives the psychological camouflage that what you’re doing is not replacing Billy with a machine, but instead replacing the burdensome tasks humans have to endure with “Marta.”

Oh yes, and they’ve named them with male and female monikers to imply diversity. You might think I’m making too much of this? I would strongly disagree.

It’s not about making too much of anything. What I’m doing is pointing out very specific clues that should jump out at you when you’re listening to someone speak. Especially if you’re in any leadership position, or even sales.

There ae clues everywhere in this one scenario that would give you a leap-frog like ability to see what may pertain over the horizon and how you may position yourself, council, or whatever, to prepare for the inevitable upcoming scenarios. Because they are coming. The above videos show you (if you’re truly listening) just how close to that horizon they already are.

If you still have doubts, try the following…

Re-watch the above with your new-found approach and everywhere you see a “human” involved, as the person is explaining, think or say to yourself: “And as soon as we figure it out, this human task will also be replaced.”

If you do, you can see the next opportunity step this company has in their sights.

Think using this context: If you’re, let’s say, an oven manufacturer. What would you be doing 30 seconds later after watching? If you were building or designing an oven that needed a “human” to work it, would you maybe call a meeting and say, “How can we make this work without any human intervention, because the market is already trying to do that without us?”

See my point?

Or, let’s say you’re a government official. (I know, but stay with me, it’s only for example purposes) “Are we about to see an explosion to our social services budgets as these minimum wage law increases take effect? Maybe we need to rethink the costs of what we’re doing here?” (I know, stop laughing, again, it’s for demonstration purposes only)

Again, I think you can see my point. There are more, but there’s far too many for this post. That’s why this would be during a 1/2 day or more seminar.

So now with the above, let’s move onto the second with Mr. Altucher.

Personally I don’t follow Mr. Altucher. I have nothing against him, I just never cared for him when he was schlepping the market when he was running a hedge fund years back. It seems my initial “bullsh_t meter” was correct, because it is he himself that has both written, and spoken about how miserable, and phony he was while doing it.

He has done a lot as of late in turning his life around (and some would say upside-down) rediscovering himself and his ideas about life and deserves kudos, because no matter what one thinks about what he’s doing. He’s doing one thing that’s commendable: He’s living what he’s preaching or arguing. Which leads to me to this last video and why it is important.

But not for the reasons you’ll think at first blush.

I was talking with a colleague the other day and for some reason Mr. Altucher came up during the conversation where, what at first, appeared as a throw away comment by my friend turned into a very revealing insight.

Again, but one had to be listening in both situations.

The line came up as we were discussing rental pricing and homes when he nonchalantly said “Hey, prices are so affordable I guess even James Altucher is getting an apartment!”

That led to me asking why that was relevant (because I really hadn’t any clue) and where he elaborated that Mr. Altucher has been living with no possessions other than what he carries around in a shoulder bag. e.g., No apartment or home, no nothing, but for the clothes on his back and a few tech items like a laptop and such. Nothing else. If it didn’t fit into his shoulder bag? He didn’t have it. That’s a pretty amazing, thing in-and-of itself.

So like anyone I asked, “So where does he sleep? Hotels? Friends and family?” And the response was, “No, I think he stays at AirBnB™s.” Fair enough I thought, and we left it at that.

So, the next day, out of curiosity, I found his blog and visited it where the above video was located and watched it. That’s when I heard something that truly perked my ears. I wonder if you heard the same. Maybe you did, but did it set off the same “Wait…what?”  moment that I had? Here’s that moment.

Paraphrasing Mr. Altucher: “I used to stay at AirBnB’s, but New York is cracking down on them and they’re getting harder to find.”

Re-read that line one more time.

This is being said by someone who has been living, to the extreme, for years, the AirBnB model. And in New York, one of the biggest markets in the world, again quoting, “They’re getting harder to find” and the reason? “Because New York is cracking down on them.”

Now if you are an “investor” or thinking about “investing” or anything else when it comes to the #2 valued unicorn in the world – do you think that one line gives you more insight over the horizon and what maybe coming over it than what you’re being told (or sold) by the next-in-rotation fund manager crowd, or talking head?

Or, better yet, any one of that crowd?

Remember when Uber™ was set for world domination? Then ______________ (fill in the blank.)

Now, you have the entire Valley, as well as Tech, and VC world pinning all it’s future hopes on the #2 deca-corn (because unicorn is so blasé in “The Valley”) with rationalizations, and expectations for rainbows and lollipop riches – and one of people living, breathing, and followed by many in that Valley openbly states – it’s getting harder to find an AirBnB because New York regulators are cracking down on their legality.

Can you say – “Uh, oh?”

And here’s another thing I’ll wager you: No one else even has a clue, because all they are reporting or listening to is what’s emenating from within it’s own bubble. And in that bubble? Unicorn’s are still worth what the VC’s say they are. (insert laugh track here.)

That’s fine, unless – you happen to be a prospective investor and you’re sitting across from those trying to sell you into any latest funding round where the calls for “world domination” are more boisterous than the parade of fund mangers waiting to spread the news.

That’s because unlike like most you would probably be the only one to ask…

“So tell me how the New York market is currently playing out? I would like to see the details and growth patterns over the last 3 years on that market specifically.”

Trust me – the room would suddenly go silent. All because you were listening when everyone else was just talking. Why? Like I’ve stated prior in the article “Silicon Valley Snake Oil: It’s Passed ‘It’s Sell By Date'” To wit:

Just like Uber – the longer it remains private – the more time is allotted for any, and all lawsuits either resting, or being drawn, to ferment ever further.

Uber has its driver issues and such. AirBnB has its own regulatory hurdles to still fight. And those fights just may get hit with an accelerant if the latest proposals being bandied about for increasing its presence draw it closer into the spotlight.

I believe a regulatory crack down, in one of the largest and most premier markets, which forces even one of its most frequent users to suddenly decide and rent an apartment because even he admits that crackdown is underway with its repercussions states volumes about just what you’re not hearing anywhere else. That is, except here I guess.

What you do with what you hear, as always, is up for you to decide.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr