Talk, Inc.: A book review by Bob Morris

Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power Their Organizations
Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind
Harvard Business Review Press (2012)

How and why organizational conversation can – and should – be a new source of organizational power

The results of dozens of major research studies confirm that, during a face-to-face encounter, the impact is determined as follows: body language, about 55-60%; tone of voice, about 30-35%; and what is said, about 10-15%. (Obviously, the results vary somewhat from one survey to the next.) The bottle line is that we communicate in several different ways whenever we “send a message” and the message received (IF it’s received) is not necessarily the one sent or at least not the one intended.
What we have in this volume is a brilliant analysis of what works and what doesn’t during what Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind characterize as “organizational conversations,” a term that applies “to the full range of patterns and processes by which information circulates through a company — all of the ways in which ideas, images, and other forms of organizational co tent pass between [and among] leaders and employees, or from one employee (or group of employees) to another…both in spirit and practice, organizational conversation is quite different from corporate communication” and they explain both the differences and why they are significant.These are among the passages, themes, and concepts that caught my eye throughout the narrative:

o  Why the shift from corporate communication to organizational conversation has occurred (Pages 7-8)
o  Trust-based leadership (13-16)
o  How to gain and give trust (18-20)
o  Practical tips on how to promote “conversational intimacy” (55-60)
o  The interdependence of “hard” assets and “soft” assets(81-85)
o  “Three Pillars of Wisdom” (105-108)
o  The benefits and perils of allowing employees to generate organizational (social) content (137-140)
o  How to enable and leverage employee-generazted content (163-169)
o  The unique challenges of formulating an appropriate strategy for organizational conversation (178-184)
o  How to determine “which communication efforts fall into which buckets” (225-228)

Groysberg and Slind make effective use of several real-world mini-case studies that illustrate both the potential benefits and (yes) perils of organizational conversation. There are exemplars: Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.  (Chapter 2), Cisco Systems (Chapter 5), EMC Corporation (Chapter 8), and Kingfisher PLC (Chapter 11).

Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original expectations and one of the reasons is defective leadership (lack of character and/or incomptence), especially at the C-level. That said, all organizations need trust-based leadership at all levels and in all areas of operation. One of the ost impirtant and yet least understood benefits of organizational conversation is its unique power to facilitate, indeed expedite trust-based relationships throughout the given enterprise. If you doubt that, check the aforementioned statistics re impact during face-to-face interaction.

In my opinion, Boris Groysberg and and Michael Slind are world-class empiricists and pragmatists who have an insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. They are determined (obsessed?) to help develop as many trusted leaders as they can who then make effective use of organizational conversation to power their organizations.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out other sources, such as Holly Weeks’s Failure to Communicate: How Conversations Go Wrong and What You Can Do to Right ThemTouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, co-authored by Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard; Robert B. Cialdini ‘s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion; and two co-authored by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler: Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success and Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition.

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1 Comment

  1. The Reviews Are In! « Talk, Inc. on August 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    […] Morris, at his Blogging About Business site, published a lengthy post about Talk, Inc.. A highlight of his review is a detailed list of “the passages, themes, and […]

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