Seth Godin and my mission at STEM to Business

Seth Godin and my mission at STEM to Business
Courtesy Joi Ito. CC

Seth Godin is an author, a marketer…a thinker, a doer…I don’t know exactly how to describe him. 

He makes things and shares them with people. He encourages other people to make things. He offers wisdom, guidance, perspective. His blog is one of my daily morning reads.

His post on Wednesday pretty much nailed my mission here at STEM to Business. Here’s what he said:

Even if only a few people use precise words, employ thoughtful reasoning and ask difficult questions, it still forces those around them to catch up. It’s easy to imagine a slippery slope down, but there’s also the cultural ratchet, a positive function in which people race to learn more and understand more so they can keep up with those around them.

Turn the ratchet. We can lead our way back to curiosity, inquiry and discovery if we (just a few for now) measure the right things and refuse the easy option in favor of insisting on better.

Business communication is too often sloppy and unhelpful

I’m overwhelmingly drawn to people that “use precise words, employ thoughtful reasoning and ask difficult questions”. That’s how I’ve learned the most, by being near these people. And that’s what I’m trying to do at STEM to Business.

As I started building my own business acumen, I noticed something troubling. A lot of people, in a lot of places, communicate unclearly about business. Over time, I’ve found two causes of this sloppy communication:

  1. Either someone doesn’t understand what they’re talking about in the first place, and they’re spouting gibberish,
  2. Or someone understands what they’re talking about so well that they use shortcuts, and leave everyone else behind.

Both of these scenarios are a problem. In the first one, you can find yourself on a path to nowhere. And if it’s coming from someone you trust, you might be far down the path before you see the trouble.

In the second scenario, it’s tough to know where your gaps are. All you know is you’re too far behind to understand what’s going on. 

My goal at STEM to Business is to cut through the nonsense in the business literature

What I’m trying to do at STEM to Business is to “use precise words, employ thoughtful reasoning and ask difficult questions”. And I’m using myself as a guinea pig. In some cases, I look backward. I try to write posts I would have found helpful when I was learning topics that I now understand.

In other cases, I live in the present. I’m testing, or developing, my understanding of a topic on the fly. Regardless, what I use to keep in private notes I’m now trying to share publicly on this site.

I do impose some restrictions on myself. I have a day job. I don’t write about stuff that I’m paid to work on during the day. But that’s a small slice of the available universe of topics. There’s plenty of available terrain for me to explore.

Next level communication skills are your competitive advantage

 There’s another very important part of Seth Godin’s post. It’s the part at the end, where he mentions “(just a few for now)”. It makes what I wrote above even more important.

It would be one thing if clear, precise communication was the norm. Then we would need to communicate clearly just to keep up. But precise communication isn’t the norm. And in a weird way, that’s good for us.

Speaking and thinking clearly, asking difficult questions…these are competitive advantages. They’re scarce. That’s why Seth Godin says even a few people ratcheting up the discussion can have an impact.

That’s what I’m trying to do here. And that’s what you should be trying to do at work.

Trust me, people will notice. Take the time to dive a little deeper. Learn a little more about the financial performance of your company, its competitors, its customers. Ask difficult questions, beyond just what your stock price is and how quickly your revenue is growing. Understand your “strategy”, not just what you’re doing to gain market share or cut costs. (Neither of which are strategy, by the way.)

Senior executives advanced in their career in part by communicating well. They notice other people who think deeply and communicate clearly. Ratchet up the conversation at work. It’s a fantastic way to separate yourself from the crowd.

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