III.4 Entangle: Synchronize
The final phase of the inovent process is to create and nurture entanglement among team members. Creating entanglement is hard. In his classic book “On Dialogue” David Bohm describes the importance for a team to spend time together in the same room, “just” listening and talking to develop mutual understanding and harmony. Spending hours and hours – Bohm talks of days – together will help develop the shared vocabulary, the implicit contextual meaning of words which is essential for fruitful communication and mutual understanding. Team members will accept everybody’s point of view equally and non-judgmentally, leading in the end to a fully entangled team. According to Bohm, the key is the willingness to listen, even if somebody totally disagrees with what the other person says, to just build a shared understanding and “agree to disagree”.
When I joined Coopers & Lybrand, a predecessor firm of PwC, a long time ago as a young consultant, I was sent to consultant bootcamp, where I was taught the key consulting principle “Listen – think – consult – act!”. This means that when meeting a prospective customer on the first engagement, do not brag to show how smart you are, but start by listening. Once you think you have understood what the customer is trying to say, think it through, compare it with what you already know, to position it in context. Then start consulting others (and Google), asking for advice on how they see the problem, and how they would address it. Only then, after going through the previous three steps “listen – think – consult”, start speaking and acting. This is a very different behavior compared to what I have seen from many super-smart, over-confident, cocky young consultants with freshly minted MBAs from top business schools. Later in my career, rising through the ranks of PwC and Deloitte and making partner at both organizations, this principle served me well. As a partner, the main job is selling engagements to customers. In my sales presentations with prospective customers, I realized that they did not want to hear how smart I was, but they wanted me to listen to their story, to understand what their problem was, and then come up with the best solution. As a rule of thumb, I found that if the prospective customer did 80 to 90% of the talking, I had a very high chance of subsequently getting the engagement. This means that to get entangled with the customers, let them do the talking, and listen to what they have to say. Good leaders always talk last, such that everybody else has a chance to contribute their opinion. It is all about listening, and letting others do the talking!