Listening and learning in business

I’ve just spent the last couple of days in meetings and discussions with various people at very different points in their career.

It’s made me think about a dodgy (but obviously memorable) phrase that’s stuck in my mind from the first time I got served a pint of Newcastle Brown in the Bow Bars circa 1989.

Myself and my mates were making far too much noise for our years and in danger of being removed from the fine drinking establishment when an old regular dropped these words of wisdom:
“If you listen you learn. If you learn you earn.”

We listened and learnt that by piping down we too could become
regulars and hone our pool and drinking skills. We’ve moved on from
that aspiration but that has always stuck with me and everyone I’ve met
over the past few days, in their own small way, has given me food for
thought and made me realise the value of opening up in business.

I was in Bristol on a course with SME directors and public sector
tender writing experts with many years experience between them and this
morning I held informal interviews with second year Marketing and
Advertising students for an award we have set up with the University of

I’ve gained very practical tips from my training
course, as you’d expect, which I was able to put to good use straight
away. That said, we paid for that information and knowledge and so I
would be disappointed if it wasn’t of value to our business.

interviews, on the other hand, were part of our process of opening up
and sharing our knowledge to help inject vocational experience into the
students education. We initially did this because we felt a little
disconnected from our local community and also partly because we wanted
to ‘give something back’ (our co-founders Matt and Phil are both
University of Northampton alumni).

In truth, it’s turned out that we feel we’ve gained far more than we’ve given:

  • We’ve
    met some great students who’s enthusiasm is infectious and has reminded
    us why we made our careers in the creative industry.
  • We’ve
    adapted our creative process based on short lessons we organised for 15
    year olds after seeing how they thrived on competition.
  • We
    remembered how inspiring it is to talk about design and marketing just
    for the sake of it without placing it in the context of a live project.
  • We’ve
    met lecturers who truly value our point of view and, in turn, have
    offered us their different and always interesting perspective on a
    range of subjects.
  • We also learnt about the state of online shopping in the Eastern bloc but that’s another post.

not suggesting that every business should go out and ‘give something
back’ (although that would be nice). I do, however, believe that the
more insular we become the less open we are to change and opportunity.
We want to evolve as a business and there’s no better way than to
listen and learn (from everyone).

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