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Why you need to be a better listener

The world is changing quickly.

We know that technology is progressing at an exponential rate. That there's been a shift in customer / client / employee expectations, and that automation is leading us to a knowledge-based economy. In the new world of big data, robots, the internet of things, and whatever comes next… Our human skills are more valuable than ever.

Young people entering the workforce today are expected to have 17 different jobs in 5 different industries in their working life. What were once thought of as "soft skills", like problem solving, adaptability, collaboration, and of course - listening… are now key skills to leadership and success in the future.

We know that we need to be better listeners to succeed in an ever-changing world.

The rise of social media, the shared economy (e.g. Uber, AirBnB) and peer-to-peer ratings (e.g. Yelp, TripAdvisor), have all impacted on the power shift that has seen everyone from grass roots organisations to international conglomerates talking "customer centricity". Instead of telling customers what they want, there's now a platform to actually listen to what they need, and respond.

Never before have organisations been able to get this close to their customers - to live in their everyday worlds, to talk to them one on one, to receive honest feedback on their products and services. This can be either an incredible opportunity or a nail in the coffin, and it all depends on how well we choose to listen.

The way successful companies are listening internally to their employees is changing dramatically, too. As the world starts to move away from hierarchical workplace structures, things like idea jams, hack-a-thons and innovation competitions - originally led by innovation leaders like Google - are now becoming more common place in variety of organisations. This is recognition of the fact that all the good ideas don't sit at the top, and anyone could have a valuable contribution to make.

If we don't invest in developing solid and practical listening skills, who knows what gold nuggets of value we're missing out on from our customers, employees, and the world around us.

Stay tuned for the next article on Practical Listening, and why Active Listening alone doesn't always cut it.

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