This is the first in a series of short essays written by CEO and Founder Dean Brenner, to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of The Latimer Group. In this series, Dean will share his reflections on, and learnings from, the last two decades.
Twenty years ago, the person who showed up to the meeting with the most and the best information was usually the most valuable person in the room. The person who regularly shared information (by, for example, frequently forwarding on emails that contained lots of information) was seen as highly valuable. In a world struggling with how to obtain information, this was considered good behavior.
Today, that’s the last behavior we need, because things have changed a lot in the last twenty years. And we need to start thinking about this differently.
Today, the person who shows up to the meeting with the communication skills to make things simpler and easier for everyone around them is almost always the most valuable person in the room. “Great communication” is no longer about more information. Today “great communication” is about simpler and clearer information.
Over the two decades that I have been coaching communication skills, this is among the biggest changes I have seen. Information, and the access to it, is no longer the most valuable asset for companies. Today, the most valuable asset (at least among the intangible ones) is the skill to see through all the information, simplify and clarify it, and map a plan through it all.
That’s a huge shift, and most people’s skills have not yet caught up with this shift. So, as with most sea changes, a significant opportunity continues to exist for those who adapt the quickest.
Let’s take a quick look back at the world in 2002, when I started this business:
- Almost no one had home wireless yet. WiFi was invented in 1997, but did not gain broad usage until about 2007.
- There were no smart phones or social media (those were the days!)
- Ecommerce was in its infancy. Most retailers were just launching ecommerce businesses in the 2001-2007 range. In 2021, ecommerce represented between 15-20% of all retail sales.
- VHS was still viable, although DVD sales exceeded VHS sales for the first time in 2003.
- Netflix didn’t launch their streaming service until 2007.
- Approximately 7 trillion emails were sent. Today that number is @122 trillion.
- Approximately 250 billion text messages were sent. Today that number is more than @2.5 trillion.
You get the idea.
In all ways, our relationship with content, information and access to each other was far simpler in 2002 than it is in 2022. The world is now a very “noisy” place, something we write and talk about all the time here at The Latimer Group.
The implications for all this newfound “noise” are significant. There are more people talking, more loudly, and through far more channels than ever before. We are bombarded every day with opinions, news alerts, sports scores, ecommerce offers, calendar reminders, emails, text messages, team chats… and we have not even gotten to the toxic proliferation of meetings, and the undeniable impact of COVID.
Yes… the world is really noisy. And busy. And distracted. This noisy world has flipped our relationship with content and information completely on its head, and changed forever the definition of what it means to be a good communicator in the workplace.
So how do we adjust our style to compensate for the deafening level of noise out there? We have to start by first thinking differently about our role as a communicator, and how we can add value to the people around us. Before we can adjust the skills, we must first adjust the mindset.
Today everyone is seeking, in fact craving, simplicity and clarity. And the person who can provide those things has huge value. In many of the coaching sessions I lead, I am constantly challenging people to think differently. Can you organize the details so that they are easy to absorb? Can you frame the decision and prioritize the decision tree? Can you be the easiest part of everyone else’s day?
In other words, what I have learned over the last twenty years is that we have to think of ourselves first as translators or simplifiers. We must embrace that role. We must see the value in that role. And once we embrace it, the skills will follow. Once we realize that simplification and clarity are valuable, then it becomes easier to think about what comes next. Once we start to think of ourselves as good caretakers of other people’s time, we are firmly on the path to a better place.
In this noisy world, with far-too-long “to do” lists, our time is disappearing more quickly than the polar ice cap (apologies for the environmental gallows humor… but the visual is powerful.) The sense of “overwhelm” that most of us feel on a daily basis is real. Nearly everyone I know talks about it. And, bottom line, the person who can process information, translate and simplify it, and redistribute it clearly has enormous competitive advantage. That person gets noticed in every meeting and presentation.
It is indeed a noisy world out there. Details still matter. But our relationship with those details is dramatically different than it was not that long ago. So, if we want to be a great communicator in today’s workplace, we have to be the one who makes the world simpler for the people around us.
Good luck, have a great day, and thanks for being part of our Latimer Community.