Recently I read an article that I feel is a foundational shift in how we humans acquire information.

In Scientific America’s December 2013 Issue, the article “How Google is changing your brain” laid out a research based perspective that postulates that the Internet has replaced our typical human memory partners.

In the past, a team of people (a family, work group, etc.) would disperse information amongst each to assemble a set of knowledge that far exceeded the knowledge of the individual. We did this for practical reasons, one person just can’t know it all, and so we spread the memory load.

Theoretically this made us more effective as a team rather than individually “two heads are better than one” became a common phrase for a reason. But the trend is pointing towards one head plus the Internet is better than two!

Today, the Internet is replacing the human memory exchange. And why not? The Internet is available instantly, anywhere, whenever we want, about anything, and we can get multiple opinions quickly too.

I do not think there is a person who would argue against the Internet being an efficient method to get information, to learn, to become knowledgeable. Yes knowledgeable, at least that is how users perceive it. Research says that when we use the Internet as our source, we tend to internalize it as “our” knowledge. Rather than regarding the Internet as a source, we begin to look at it as a cognitive tool.

I can imagine the huffing and the rolling eyes going on right now. Yes there are great pitfalls in this thinking that the Internet creates knowledge. I realize there is a flip side. The common phrase “knowing enough to be dangerous” exists for a reason. Not to mention, the expertise we each hold, that we worked hard to earn; the Internet surely cannot hold a candle to that. Can it? Accessing our specialized knowledge will most certainly be more valuable. Won’t it?

I say that may very well be so, but finding you or me and getting an answer RIGHT now is far too complex vs. the instant ease of the Internet competitor. We have said many times in this blog, if nothing else, we humans are wired to be efficient, so human memory and knowledge partners lose, the Internet wins. The digital partner will not be perfect (and truthfully the human partner is not perfect either) but like it or not, most will consider it good enough for most situations.

This sure got me thinking about the implications.

In business we need to make sure that our business offerings are truly value added; contextualizing, sense making and application will need to accompany information. Experience will be an even more critical part of any client exchange. Also be aware that the savvy consumer will arrive informed and require a more sophisticated starting point, this will require more of your front line and all touch points.

Well it seems that maybe one head and the Internet not only suffices, but may actually be better.

Who’s in your knowledge expansion group? Humans? Or is it the Internet?

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The MAN VAN™ Nails It

by Vicki on March 28, 2014

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I ventured down to the BMO Centre to the Calgary International Auto and Truck Show. While wandering through the rows of new trucks and cars, we spotted a brilliant public health initiative that I knew I’d need to blog about. What was the health initiative that inspired me?

The MAN VAN™

What is the MAN VAN™?

The MAN VAN™ is a mobile unit operated by the Prostate Cancer Centre.  Its purpose is to increase awareness of the importance of early detection of prostate cancer.  On scheduled dates it offers on-the-spot baseline PSA testing at a variety of locations.

……Through our “GET CHECKED” program, our professional staff travel with the MAN VAN™ to convenient locations to offer free PSA testing to men over 40. No appointment is necessary. In addition, employers can book the van to visit their offices and test employees on site.

The PSA test is a simple blood test that helps in the early detection of prostate cancer. PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen is a substance produced by the prostate and released in small amounts to the bloodstream. The amount of PSA in the bloodstream can often predict a man’s risk of prostate cancer. We provide free and confidential baseline PSA tests in the comfort of a motor home. The MAN VAN is equipped with comfy leather seats and a flat-screen TV to create an environment where men can relax while taking charge of their health.

Although I think their description of their service offering is OK, I don’t think it truly captures the brilliance of what I saw in person as I waited for my husband to make his trip through the MAN VAN™.

What did I see? I saw one man after another signing up to be tested for prostate cancer. Consistently and persistently.

And I can truthfully say that had you asked me to predict beforehand if the MAN VAN™ would have had much “business” at a car show on a Sunday afternoon, my prediction would have been dead wrong – what man wants to take time out at a car show to think about their personal likelihood for prostate cancer??

Here is why I think the application of their initiative is so brilliant:

  • The MAN VAN™ was positioned as just another exhibit. You didn’t have to go anywhere out of the ordinary to get to it, you had to walk by if you chose to visit the show row by row.
  • Their service offering was clearly stated on the van and around the exhibit
  • Seated outside the van was an older gentleman. His role was key. He continuously scanned the faces of the men walking by, looking for men that appeared to him to be 40+. When he spotted men who looked to be “of age”, he singled them out – pointing to them and calling out to them. Once he had their attention, he offered the services of the van. If they declined, he asked about the last time they had been tested. He was persistent and very direct, but in a calm and non-confrontational way. It was clear that this man was on a mission – their literature indicates that greeters often have personal experience with prostate cancer.
  • Any men that were 40+ who were open to being tested were quickly seated and expertly walked through a consent form. The greeter made completion so easy.
  • Following consent, men were seated in the motor home until it was their turn to have their blood drawn. At times, the number of men waiting to have their blood drawn was greater than the motor home could accommodate. The extra men sat or stood outside the van waiting for their turn.
  • The blood draw was quick and pain free (according to my husband)
  • If your PSA levels are good, the results are mailed to your home in about a day
  • If your levels require follow up, a health care professional will follow up with you via phone

Public health professionals have an uphill battle when it comes to getting people to adopt and maintain new health behaviors.

But despite the odds, the MAN VAN™ has it nailed – location, clarity of offering, champion of the cause, simplicity and speed of process. Inspiring!

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I must confess, for me it happens more than it should. I like to think that I am exploding with enthusiasm about the topic at hand and need to join in. I like to think I am guiding to dialogue about a different perspective or augmenting the one being discussed. But after doing some reading about interrupting, interrupting is most often not perceived as well intentioned. Generally it is seen as interfering, hindering, trying to take control, or (eek!), just plain rude.

There are many reasons why we need to listen and stop interrupting:

  • In 1995 Haas & Arnold demonstrated that listening is an important component in how people judge communication effectiveness in the work place
  • Bechler & Johnson went on to demonstrate that listening is linked to effective leadership

In my own defense, I can be extraordinarily disciplined in my listening when I make a conscious choice. Like in our interviewing for projects, I am hanging on every word the person who has agreed to talk to us says, I would never dare to interrupt them. I am there to listen and encourage them to talk to their heart’s content. And they do, and they love it. There is hardly an interview completed at PROVOKE when the person who has given us their time, does not thank us for the interview. I know first hand the power of listening, and the positive impact it has in terms of connection, validation and relationship building.

Meekly, I do take some tiny bit of relief in knowing I am not alone (And yes I get that common does not mean right). Research suggests that men interrupt on average within 24-30 seconds of listening to someone, and women interrupt within 30-53 seconds. And on average we interrupt 50% of the time.

Evidence points to this being one of those not so productive habits many of us share more often than we may notice or care to admit, and that few are not guilty of at some point.

So why is it so prevalent?

Our thoughts can move four times faster than speech, so we are only using 25% of our mental capacity. SO what are we going to do with the other 75% of capacity available to us? We get distracted, with our own thoughts/responses. We either totally check out or in effort to remain engaged we start thinking about questions to ask, points to make, suggestions to offer.

We interrupt because most of us have not been taught this specifically (Funny we get lots of training on the outgoing like writing and speaking but not the incoming).

  • Only 2% of us have actually been trained to listen effectively
  • Only 1.5% of articles in business journals deal with listening effectiveness

So, to follow up on my last blog about listening, I thought I would try something new in hopes of creating a new habit.

  • I will listen, without speaking, eye to eye, fully attentive for at least one minute to start (try it, a minute can feel VERY long!), and slowly grow that time to when a person stops talking.
  • My specific strategy is to either take a sip of something when someone talks (extra fun at a dinner party with libations!!), or physically put my hand over my mouth to stop my lips from engaging (I can strike a pose reminiscent of The Thinker pretty well)
  • And when I do speak I engage my PROVOKE skills, and follow up with  comments like “Tell me more” or “What’s next?”.

As leaders, perhaps this is something we can all try. Imagine a client that gets your full, purposeful, intense attention. Or a co-worker, spouse, child, friend…..it will be interesting to see how people react. I know one thing for sure, it will build more goodwill than you could ever imagine in such a short time.

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Are your Habits Serving you Well?

February 28, 2014

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle I have been giving lots of thought to organizational habits. Organizational habits are simply a collective of individual habits. Organizational habits are way of behaving that we have learned, repeated, automated and give little critical consideration to. Changing […]

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Trust Us…..It’s Natural

February 14, 2014

How much do you think about your food? Do you care about where your food comes from? How it is grown? How much it has been treated/processed (or not!)? Do you read labels? Even if you care a lot about the food you eat and spend time trying to nourish yourself well, it should come […]

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