Thinking Inside the Box

How The Attention Economy Affects Us All - Matt Abrahams

October 11, 2022 Matt Burns Season 1 Episode 114
Thinking Inside the Box
How The Attention Economy Affects Us All - Matt Abrahams
Show Notes Transcript

In today’s episode, I chat with Matt Abrahams, a Lecturer in Organizational Behaviour, at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, where he teaches Strategic Communication courses and workshops that help future business leaders to be more authentic, confident and compelling communicators.

Matt’s also Host of the Think Fast, Talk Smart: The Podcast, where he sits down with experts across a wide range of professional disciplines to discuss public speaking anxiety, spontaneity, and more.

We didn’t set out to discuss the attention economy, though perhaps predictably, as two individuals as fascinated by communication as we are, we did. At a time when we’ve never been more saturated by information, getting your message through can often mean the difference between impact and irrelevance. 

We chatted about shifts in societal communication trends, social media, Tik Tok, and a host of other fascinating topics related to how we all relate today. 

It was such a pleasure connecting with a fellow Matt. And I hope you enjoy it. 

Matt Abrahams

Matt Abrahams is a passionate, collaborative and innovative educator and coach. He teaches Effective Virtual Communication and Essentials of Strategic Communication at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.  

Matt is also Founder and Principal at TFTS LLC, a presentation and communication skills company based in Silicon Valley that helps people improve their presentation skills. 

Matt published the third edition of his book Speaking Up Without Freaking Out, a book written to help the millions of people who wish to present in a more confident and compelling way. He also hosts the GSB podcast called Think Fast Talk Smart.  And, he curates the website.


Thinking Inside the Box

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Matt Burns

Matt Burns is an award-winning executive, social entrepreneur and speaker. He believes in the power of community, simplicity & technology.


[00:00:00] Guest 1: We have always as a species, I believe found tools to help us communicate that, that, uh, attract our attention. I think the, the bigger issue we're dealing with now, as you've mentioned is there's just so much information out there. So not only are the tools getting more specific in. Tuned to [00:00:20] us through algorithms and, and serving us up what we need.

We just have so much more of it. And, and we're running into our, our limits of our ability to focus and sustain our, uh, attention and wellbeing simultaneously.[00:00:40] 

[00:00:45] Matt: Restrain strive in. Hey everyone. It's Matt here for another episode of thinking inside the box, a show where we discuss complex issues related to work and culture. If you're interested in checking out our other content, you can find us at [00:01:00] bento, and wherever you finds your favorite podcasts by searching, thinking inside the box.

And if you enjoy the work we're doing here, consider leaving us a five star rating, a comment and subscribing it ensures you get updated. Whenever we release new content and really helps amplify our message. In today's episode, I chat with [00:01:20] Matt Abraham. A lecturer in organizational behavior at Stanford university's graduate school of business, where he teaches strategic communication courses and workshops that help future business leaders be more authentic, confident, and compelling communicators.

Matt's also the host of the think fast talk smart [00:01:40] podcast, where he sits down with experts across a wide range of professional disciplines to discuss everything from public speaking, anxiety and spontaneity. We didn't set out today to discuss the attention economy though, perhaps predictably as two individuals, fascinated by communication as we [00:02:00] are, we did.

And at a time when we've never been more saturated by information, getting your message through can often mean the difference between impact and I relevance. Matt. And I chatted about shifts in societal communication trends, social media, TikTok, and a host of other fascinating [00:02:20] topics related to how we all relate today.

It was a really fun conversation and I enjoyed chatting with other Matt. I hope you enjoyed as well. And now I bring you Matt Abraham. The last thing you said was to feel free to interrupt you, Matt. And I'm gonna absolutely take you up on that offer. Thank you for it. It's very [00:02:40] kind. You're welcome. I'm looking forward to today's conversation.

We've been having chats over the phone for the last few weeks now. Uh, I've been doing some, uh, research into your work and obviously just released the book. I'm looking forward to a conversation about communication. It's basically inception. 

[00:02:55] Guest 1: Yeah, I, I think Matt power to the rescue. Let's see what we can do.

I'm I'm looking forward to our [00:03:00] conversation before we get there. Let's hear a bit more 

[00:03:02] Matt: about your background, Matt, your background, your experiences, and what brought you to today. 

[00:03:06] Guest 1: Sure. So I am somebody who's just always been passionate about learning and communication. I stumbled upon communication as a field of study in my academic career, I started, uh, entered university expecting [00:03:20] and wanting to be a, a doctor.

I met calculus in chemistry and they had a different idea for my career and I, in an attempt to sort of sneak into pre-med requirements. There was a class where I went to school that, that combined both biology and social science together, they called it human biology. [00:03:40] And on the first day of class, they wield in an old professor of psychology and, and I had never known psychology was a field of study.

Therapy and I learned, oh my goodness, this is what I'm passionate about. So I, I immediately switched to study psychology and within psychology, I became very fascinated by communication, which I did not know [00:04:00] was a field beyond journalism. So I discovered there's this whole area of communication studies.

So I'd went on to my graduate career in that, and from there had to pay off student loans and went. To work in the corporate world and just saw how challenging communication could be for people. So when I had the opportunity to come back to [00:04:20] study it and teach it, I, I leaped at that opportunity and I've been teaching and coaching communication ever since.

So, uh, I stumbled into the field that I am very passionate about today. A 

[00:04:29] Matt: story a lot of us can relate to. I can certainly speak for myself when I say that human resources was not the path that I had for myself coming out of high school, going into university and, you know, flash forward 20 years [00:04:40] later, and here we find ourselves and we find ourselves in a place where there's a lot of synergies, Matt, between our chosen careers for different aims and potentially with different means.

And the idea. Trying to get communication, trying to spread a message, trying to inform, to inspire, to educate people through means of communication is something that we've each [00:05:00] worked on in our own way. I'm curious from your vantage point, as you look back at your experiences in the profession, both in a corporate context, but also in the academic, in the kind of the research orientation, authoring type of modality as well.

What are some of the big sweeping changes that you've seen over the last, just say 10 years or so, [00:05:20] some of the big shifts and big, uh, quantum changes that you've, uh, witnessed. There've 

[00:05:23] Guest 1: been many, there've been many. So, uh, let me highlight at least three, uh, I I'd say the first really was ushered in with the, the.

Success and interest in things like Ted talks, where all of a sudden it became speaking was the [00:05:40] thing itself and using slides and aids and, and dense material became less, uh, desired. And, and people began to see that there's value in how you say what you say. That coincided with what was going on at the societal level.

We had, um, you know, some presidents who were very good at [00:06:00] their, in their oratory and others who weren't. So people began to see that there's a power in speaking that isn't tied to material like slides and documents. So I think that was one big. Shift that we saw perhaps a little longer than 10 years ago.

Another shift ha was to parsimony [00:06:20] concision. I think texting tweeting and, uh, emoticons emojis made it so that we can communicate or, or required us to think about how we communicate in a more concise. In clear way. And then finally, certainly with the pandemic, the, the nature of virtual [00:06:40] communication, where we are not physically present, we are using tools to intermediate what's going on.

So I would say those are three major trends, some of which are complimentary to each other and others which are antithetical, but I've, I've definitely seen that shift. And some people have shifted in smoothly and others have had a Rocky road of. Let's talk a bit 

[00:06:57] Matt: about that. Why do you think some people struggle [00:07:00] to make the transition where others don't?

We talked about some of the modality and some of the, the thinking, but mm-hmm why do you think that changes 

[00:07:05] Guest 1: so hard? You know, a lot of our communication is habitual. We do what we do because we always have, and many people have had success, uh, to some level in their communication and it just becomes the way you do things.

And part of what I do or try [00:07:20] to do in my teaching, my writing, my podcasting. Coaching is to show people other tools. So I like to say the work I try to do is about turning habits into choices so we can become aware of other alternatives. So I think a lot of it is out of habit. It's we're often so worried about what we're saying, that we don't [00:07:40] really focus on how and the mechanics behind it.

And. Leads us to, to get stuck in our ways. There's a whole bunch of inertia there and seeing what's possible, trying things out, becoming more observant of others self-reflection as well is how we can shake some of that to embrace the new ways of communicating and [00:08:00] become better at it. Communication is 

[00:08:01] Matt: such a simple concept.

And yet my experience has taught me that it's an incredibly difficult wire to walk whether it's in a personal context, whether it's in a professional context, certainly now in the content creation space, I often find myself asking how I need to shift my [00:08:20] message and how I need to shift the way that I communicate given the audience, given the topic.

And I think about things. Matt, you mentioned a couple of your venues. I think about writing versus teaching. Mm-hmm I think about speaking and giving presentations versus trying to build relationships with people. Each of these are their own communication vehicles. Many of them leverage the same types of [00:08:40] tools.

I'm curious what you see in this space. If there is a lack of knowledge around tooling, or if there's a mismatch with the tools people use to get the message across, you know, why do we struggle to wrap our heads around the 

[00:08:54] Guest 1: tools that we have? Again, I think it boils down to most of us focus on the message we're trying to communicate, and we [00:09:00] don't.

Often think about the other factors and variables that might influence it. What's the best tool to deliver the message. What's the best timing to deliver the message. What's the best way of confirming the message was received. We, many of us are so busy and so distracted that we don't take the time [00:09:20] to invest in.

Honing the message for the receiver, for the channel, for the, for the context. So that we're more likely to increase what I call the big F word in, in communication. And that is fidelity, accuracy and clarity. And so I, I think a lot of it is we're just distracted and from these [00:09:40] other elements that can really make a big difference for us.

Oh, I think 

[00:09:43] Matt: you're right. I also think there's a degree of emotional dysregulation, especially now. Yeah. In a world where we've all. Way too much on our plates. And we're trying to make the best of challenging situations. I also think that we all can relate to the idea of saying something or sending that email, and maybe we weren't in the [00:10:00] best head space to do that.

That doesn't help communication. Regardless of the vehicle, Matt, I'm struck by an awareness around, you know, a term that's getting a lot of press it's almost kind of jumped the shark to a point. And that's the attention economy, the idea that the moments around our day. Our finite 24 hours a day, 365 days.

Most [00:10:20] years, we only have so much time attention to pay to things like our family, our relationships, our career, ourselves, the general world, whether it's social media, whether it's television, Netflix, we're we have more information on the planet than we can possibly hope to ingest in any one lifetime. And.

[00:10:40] Therefore, this rise of this term, the attention economy has come into playing. And I'm curious what that term means as, as it relates to your profession, as it means to, to your work, either in your professional practice or in your academic practice, 

[00:10:51] Guest 1: you are absolutely right. I, I like to say that attention is the most precious commodity we have in, in the world today.

And we, we have to manage our [00:11:00] own attention, what we focus to on and, and choose to spend time. Doing, but we also have to help other people see our messages, what we want to get across as important. So it boils down to a few key ideas. From my perspective, one, you really have to understand your audience and what's important for them.

What's, [00:11:20] what's the value you bring to them. Many of us, when we start our communications, we think about here's what I want to say rather than here's what my audience needs to hear. And that sounds. Just moving words around verbal jujitsu, but in fact, it's really fundamentally different. So we have to really understand our audience what's relevant and important to them.[00:11:40] 

And then we have to structure our messages in a way that is easy to digest. We have to make them focused, concise and clear. I've been doing a lot of research for a new book I'm writing and, and talking about concision and how to be clear and, and break through all of the, the. Information to gather people's attention and some [00:12:00] clear ideas are coming out.

So in talking to an editor at the dummies book series, I I'm sure Matt you've, you've heard of the dummies series um, inspiration. Yes, absolutely. They, they have a lot. Of ideas around what they call way finding how do you help people find their way through your content? And that's a really [00:12:20] interesting way of thinking about structuring content.

So people focus on it and pay attention. I interviewed a, a woman who is a cartoonist. She has a, a daily comic strip and has for 25 years. It's a one panel comic strip. And to think about how does one. Be repeatedly funny, [00:12:40] concise, clear, gather people's attention. And, uh, uh, it's fascinating the, the way in which she does that, it, it has to do with really understanding her audience and, and teasing them in a way building curiosity, her, her big mantra is you only want to give 49% of the information.

So people actually [00:13:00] are drawn into it to wanna fill in the rest. So there are a lot of things we can do to. Foster people's attention to first get it, and then to sustain it. And, and I'm fascinated by that. And, and we have to invest time in it. So our messages can rise above the, the noise for sure. Well, and for most folks who've been 

[00:13:19] Matt: following kind of what's [00:13:20] been happening as far as ambient noise and social media.

They've probably heard the stories about how, you know, websites like meta and, you know, face, you know, other Snapchat, other types of solutions themselves have. Developed algorithms using very clear science with the express purpose of making sure that as a [00:13:40] consumer, you stay on the platform. So there's very smart people and very large teams working to do this work as we speak.

And there's obviously some ethical considerations to that when we're looking at hacking human attention for. In the case of meta probably to raise, share price, because [00:14:00] they're ultimately an advertising platform, masking rating as a social media platform. So there's the ethical implications. Where does the role of ethics line into your work?

[00:14:08] Guest 1: Matt? Uh, absolutely ethics are really important and we have to be thinking about that in all of our daily activity, but especially in our communication, you know, we, we have to be thinking about [00:14:20] our goal. Our personal goal, our corporate goal, but also the values of the audience and societies in the world in which we, we communicate.

So being focused on ethics and really thinking through the long term consequences of some of the things that we do say, or in some cases don't say is [00:14:40] really, really important. You know, working at Stanford's business school, we spend a lot of time talking about morality and ethics and helping our students and ourselves.

Really understand that there are consequences, short term and long term to, to our actions or inactions. And we, we really need to weigh those against [00:15:00] what's important for us. What's important for society in the world. And it's a really difficult 

[00:15:04] Matt: question to answer these days because the world is in a place now where we're continually reinforced to be doing.

Being active all of the time. We're incentivized to never really rest, to be constantly connected, constantly engaged, constantly creating, contributing, and that's just [00:15:20] not sustainable for anyone. And when you look at, you know, ethics, I think about platforms, Matt, like TikTok mm-hmm . That has done an incredible job of hacking the science of attention and creating a platform that incentivizes people to upload content, but also to consume large volumes of different kinds of content.[00:15:40] 

And, you know, it's becoming a, a significant social media player in a, in a very com you know, crowded landscape. And I think to me, that's a great microcosm of discussion we're having where something that. Proven to be effective in terms of garnering attention and carving out its own space in that landscape.

And the question [00:16:00] of, to what end and yes, there's questions around ownership and who actually owns TikTok. That's not really what I'm talking about here. It it's more, how do we wanna spend our time? And I think about app platforms like TikTok and meta and, and where we spend our time and it's to what end.

So you. For educating ourselves. That's one thing. And we're building [00:16:20] connection with friends. That's another, we only have so much time in the day. So I'm curious when you think about communication, why do you think we're drawn to social media platforms now for news compared to the more 

[00:16:33] Guest 1: traditional methods?

Yeah, well, I, so I live this every day. I have two teenagers and they spend a lot of time on social [00:16:40] media. Many of the platforms you've mentioned in others and. It's a struggle. It's a struggle. There's a lot of good that happens in those interactions, in that learning in, in focused on those different tools.

But there's also a lot that's that could be potentially at risk or, or lost. I, I see my kids communicate [00:17:00] very awkwardly in situations that, that I recall as a child weren't as, or young adult weren't as difficult. So I, I think there is a cost to be paid in terms of. Interactional sensitivities, uh, social, uh, understanding, et cetera.

Why are we drawn to tools like that? I, I think for the reasons you mentioned [00:17:20] before, they're designed to draw us in they're they feed us information that we find interesting. It's presented to us in a way that's very dynamic and, and, uh, gives us the dopamine hits that we need. So we're fighting against that.

Uh, but we have always. As a species, I believe found tools to help us [00:17:40] communicate that, that, uh, attract our attention. I think the, the bigger issue we're dealing with now, as you've mentioned is there's just so much information out there. So not only are the tools getting more specific in tuned to us, through algorithms and, and serving us up what we need, we just have so much more of it.

And, and we're running into our, our [00:18:00] limits of our ability to focus and sustain our, uh, attention and wellbeing. S.

[00:18:08] Matt: Hey everyone. It's Matt here. I hope you're enjoying. Today's discuss. Before we continue. I want to make you aware of my latest creative project 

[00:18:16] Guest 1: this week at work 

[00:18:18] Matt: presented in partnership with my [00:18:20] good friend, Chris Rainey of HR leaders. Each Friday will live stream on LinkedIn at 7:00 AM. Pacific standard time.

That's 10:00 AM Eastern standard time and 3:00 PM GMT for our European viewers and together bringing the latest trends news on topics, emanating from organizations, everything from culture [00:18:40] to technology and the future of work. Joining is easy. Just follow me on LinkedIn, click the bell at the top right hand side of my profile.

And you'll get notified when we go live each week. And whether you do experience the content live or later, if you've been following me for a while, you'll no doubt recognize the fun banter Chris and I have developed over the years [00:19:00] and whether it's been podcasts or digital events, we're so excited to again, bring you the topics affecting today's workplaces and their leaders.

And now back to our discussion, when I think about tools like social media, I think about concepts like spontaneity mm-hmm in a [00:19:20] world where we have to collect our thoughts, put them into 280 characters or attach an image and, you know, add various filters and memes and emojis to messages. We kind of lose a bit of the spontaneity piece.

I'm curious what your thoughts are around spontaneity and communi. 

[00:19:37] Guest 1: Well, if you think about it, most of our communication is [00:19:40] spontaneous. It's it's very rarely do we have everything planned. What I've always found interesting in, in my line of work is most of the education that people get on communication is about planned communication, which is very important, often very high stakes, but is a very small percentage of actually [00:20:00] the communication that we.

So the ability to respond spontaneously or interject spontaneously, or cover up a mistake and not cover ups, the wrong word to manage a faux PA or mistake that you make. That's all very real and that's all very real time. So I have dedicated the last several years of [00:20:20] my life to really focusing in on.

Coming up with tools and methodologies to help people feel better about those spontaneous moments. And it is in those spontaneous moments that I think life really happens. You know, the, that life is not happening as you're transitioning among bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation, you know, where life is [00:20:40] happening is when I'm responding to your question or giving you the feedback or.

Taking on your challenge and, and that's why I find it so fascinating, but it's also a lot harder to do. Uh, it requires a lot of paying attention to multiple things simultaneously. It invites you to, uh, go in directions that might not be appropriate. So, so [00:21:00] the ability to speak in a spontaneous way is very challenging, but.

Very important, 

[00:21:04] Matt: very important, because as you mentioned, there's so many real world applications for it, whether you're in a professional context or a personal context, you know, being able to speak and be fully present in the moment and to show up that way is an incredible way to build [00:21:20] trust. It's incredible way to deepen relationships and in a world where we.

Likely more connected than ever before, but in the same time might also feel as disconnected. Mm-hmm , that's an important space around spontaneity and just showing up 

[00:21:35] Guest 1: presently in conversation. That's right. And yet being present oriented [00:21:40] is really hard for people and listening and the level that you really need to listen.

It's really challenging. When I teach listening skills, I'll have people do a really simple activity. I'll ask them to think about something they're very excited about doing over the coming weekend. They'll have a partner and I let them type in whatever it is. A [00:22:00] sentence about something that they're excited to do over the weekend, and then with their partner, rather than sharing it by speaking what they're doing.

They simply spell it out. So they just read the letters that they've just typed in. And this is not an activity of speaking. This is an activity of listening and the person listening tells me just how [00:22:20] hard this is to stay focused, to listen to the letters coming. But the, the point I try to make is you have the ability to do it.

You actually can understand what somebody is spelling at you, but you're listening and being present in a way that you don't typically do it. So. It is fatiguing. It is hard, but when you train yourself to do it, it can be so rewarding for all the many [00:22:40] reasons you brought up. Think 

[00:22:41] Matt: fast talk smart. Mm-hmm , it's the name of your podcast?

And I'm curious, what was the inspiration to 

[00:22:48] Guest 1: the title? there's a very funny story behind all of this. So the, the think fast talk smart name originated from a talk that I did in the business school. Years ago, almost a decade ago. Now, [00:23:00] uh, I was asked to speak at the very last minute, which is highly ironic since I was speaking on spontaneous speaking, uh, somebody got sick or bailed on a, on a reunion talk.

So they were panicked who were gonna get to fill the spot. Let's go to the communication guy who studies, uh, how to be not. Nervous in, in speaking situations, cuz he's the least likely to get [00:23:20] nervous. So they asked me to do it. I said, yes. Uh, and they asked, what's the name of your talk? And I said, using skills from improvisation to speak better.

And they took it cuz they were desperate. They would take anything. So I was talking to a colleague and I said, well, I I'm doing this now Saturday morning, I didn't expect to be doing this. And she, she said, what's it called? And I told her that name and she laughed at me. [00:23:40] She said, that is the worst. Ever, nobody's gonna want to hear that talk.

And so I said, well, what should I call it? And, and she came up with the idea of think fast talk smart. So that talk became named think fast talk smart, uh, which then got some traction, uh, that, that, uh, particular talk was, was posted on YouTube, got some traction and [00:24:00] it really seemed to be an inviting name and very apropo for what we were covering.

So it's all about. Helping people learn how to quickly process the information that that's happening in the moment and then assembling messages to respond to that situation quickly. So it's think fast talk smart. How does one focus on that? 

[00:24:19] Matt: So let's just [00:24:20] say I've arrived at the reality where this is something I struggle with.

I have a hard time thinking on my feet. How is this a skill that I can build in. 

[00:24:27] Guest 1: So I have a methodology, it's got five steps to it. I can walk you through that very quickly. First and foremost is getting out of your own way. A lot of us put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves when we communicate both planned and spontaneously, [00:24:40] uh, we want to do it right.

Uh, and I'm here to tell you, Matt and everybody listening, there is no right way to communicate. There are certainly better ways. In worse ways, but there is no right way, but we see communication. Like other things we see in our lives like performances, if we're acting, singing, dancing, or playing a sport where there's a right way to [00:25:00] do it.

And we want to find that right way to communicate. And that puts a lot of pressure on ourselves. So we need to back off from that. Uh, I, I talk about striving for mediocrity, just get it done. And the cool thing is when you take that pressure off yourself, you actually. Give yourself, the cognitive bandwidth, [00:25:20] all that energy you've been wasted, evaluating and judging what you're doing becomes available for you to then do it really well.

So by striving for mediocrity, you actually free up resources to do it really well. That's step one, step two, many of us see our spontaneous speaking as. Challenges as threats. If somebody's asking me questions, [00:25:40] lobbying objections, my way, asking for feedback when I'm not sure what the right answer is, we see those as challenging and threatening.

And in fact, I like the idea from improvisation of see these as gifts and opportunities say yes, and to it, you know, when somebody asks me a question, it's actually an opportunity for me to extend and expand and connect. And if we see [00:26:00] spontaneous communication, that way it changes our demeanor takes pressure off of.

The next thing we have to do is we have to make sure that we are listening clearly to what's needed in the moment. So much of communication is unspoken and we have to take the time to be present and see what we really need in the moment. So imagine Matt, you come out of a meeting and [00:26:20] your boss says, Hey, How'd that go well, if you just take that on face value and share how it went, that might serve the purpose, but maybe what your, your colleague is asking your boss is asking is I need a little support.

I feel a little beaten up, or I feel very unsure. And if you miss that, You might actually add insult to injury. [00:26:40] So we have to be present. We have to listen. The fourth step is to structure. We've talked a little bit about that communication needs structure way, finding, helping people get their way through your content.

And then finally you need to think about how to prioritize what I say in a way to make it concise. So by practicing each of those steps, you can actually. [00:27:00] Better at spontaneous speaking, it is a process just like if you're learning a musical instrument or playing a sport, you have to practice, you go through drills and that's how you get better at spontaneous speaking.


[00:27:10] Matt: that's kind of a let down. It's kind of like you have through all this work for spontaneity 

[00:27:15] Guest 1: that is true. But it is through that work that you actually can become more free. [00:27:20] You know, I, I taught, I interviewed a woman, fascinating conversation. She designs playgrounds, uh, award-winning playgrounds and.

We talked about play structures, because you would think if you just like kids in a field or open ground to play that they would just play. And it turns out they don't, if they don't have some kind of structure, they actually start using [00:27:40] each other as play devices. And that's where fights develop. And people get hurt when you set up some kind of structure or, or frame as she calls them, it actually frees people up to be very creative.

So this process I just went through while it sounds. Like heavy handed in a lot of work. It actually frees you up to be more [00:28:00] spontaneous, just like kids playing on a play structure in a playground, you allow your systems to 

[00:28:04] Matt: work in their best method. And you know, the podcast we you do here starts with the tagline constraints, drive innovation.

Yes. And it, it, you do need some reference points from which to draw inspiration from. And I think this is a great, another great example of that. [00:28:20] I'm curious. I mean, if you're like most podcast hosts that I talk to one of the best parts of this particular, you know, chosen way to spend your time is the people that you meet.

Mm-hmm, , it's the people that you meet along the way that either surprised you or that showed up in a way that was really transformative or [00:28:40] memorable. And I'm curious as you look back at your time at think fast talk smart. Do you see any guests or think of any 

[00:28:46] Guest 1: guests that fit that bill? Oh, I've had so many guests that, that have just totally delighted me.

And I've learned so much from them. Uh, I'll share a couple if you'd like, uh, I, uh, uh, an academic, somebody I teach with at the business school [00:29:00] near Hal Lev is his name. He studies. Distance and, and distance in terms of psychological distance in our relationships, in our communication in the way we, we do conflict and negotiation.

And it's just fascinating research, how there's an expectation of how somebody should [00:29:20] communicate in terms of how concrete. Or how generic or general their messages are based on our psychological distance. So if I'm a BA, if I'm the CEO of a company and you are a, an entry level employee, there are ways that I can structure my communication to be more effective for [00:29:40] you than if I were talking to my peers or my, the level below me.

So the notion of psychological distance in, in terms of understanding your audience was. Fascinating to me, for sure. Uh, I have a, a colleague I teach with who, who does a lot of work on reputation and reputation management. And she talks about your reputation as [00:30:00] being the echo that precedes you into a room.

And I love that image and I love the ideas about what can we do to make that echo resonate in the way that we want. So lots of insightful and interesting conversations that I've. What's next for you, Matt. 

[00:30:15] Matt: It's. How about halfway through a bit more than halfway through this calendar year? What's next for you with the [00:30:20] balance of the year and into 2023?

[00:30:21] Guest 1: Well, one is getting to know people like you and sharing ideas and, and really connecting with, with others who are thinking deeply about some of the issues that I'm very concerned with. So I'm very excited about that. Uh, the book on spontaneous speaking is, is gonna be coming out, uh, probably a little longer than, than the remainder of this year.

[00:30:40] And really refocused and revitalized, uh, on my teaching, you know, with COVID being in whatever state it is now. Uh, I'm very much looking forward to getting back in the classroom and engaging students in a way that I love to versus the way that we were forced to, uh, do to the pandemic. So I, I'm excited about, uh, expanding my community.[00:31:00] 

About sharing some of the ideas I've been thinking about for a long time and engaging with my students in a, in a way that, that I haven't been able to for a number of years, what's on your mind. I'm curious, Matt, you know, you and I have had several conversations. What excites you in the next little bit?


[00:31:13] Matt: I'm looking forward to seeing how everything shakes out. I think when I look back at the last two and a half, three years, there's been [00:31:20] several times where I've went. Aha. I think I figured it out, Matt. I think I know how the world's gonna shape up and this is how I should react, uh, along alongside of it.

And each time I'm surprised to find out that I may not be a hundred percent. Right. so life always has different plans and I I'm looking forward to seeing how it, how it all plays out in that. I I'm [00:31:40] thinking a lot about the intersection of technology and humanity Uhhuh I understand the traditional legacy thinking insofar as maybe those are at odds with one another.

I, I just think we're in a place now where we've kind of moved past that thinking and we have to move more intentionally to a symbiotic relationship. Mm-hmm with technology. Yeah. And, [00:32:00] and to do so in a way that is, uh, ensures its design. From a healthy perspective. Um, you know, we look at examples like social media and ask ourselves, you know, we got a lot of things right.

With social media and we not everything. And what lessons can we take from that and bring to new technologies in mixed reality or artificial intelligence and [00:32:20] how can we use them to better society and better our experiences, um, will not drawing too much against it. So I think about things like that, Matt, um, I also just think about to yourself, a chance to reconnect.

Um, I've really enjoyed connecting with folks like yourself digitally and traveling the world in the past. I'm looking forward to doing more of that and [00:32:40] as crazy as it sounds hopping back on airplanes and having different experiences and feeling a little bit uncomfortable being in new places. And I kind of miss that feeling.

So I'm looking forward 

[00:32:49] Guest 1: to that. I, I second that, uh, just getting out in the world literally, uh, is very exciting. You know, when you talk about te technology and a symbiotic relationship, one of the, the side [00:33:00] passions I have. Is seeing how technology can help our communication. And it can, there are tools out there that are helping people feel more comfortable and confident in speaking, be it VR goggles that you put on and programs that in, in those goggles that let you practice your communication.

So you can desensitize yourself. Be it real time feedback [00:33:20] tools when you're in the midst of a zoom meeting that, that are helping you understand it, it, my vocal intensity, am I talking too long or too much? How many filler words do I have? So, so I also am interested in the, the symbiotic relationship that we have with technology and focusing on the good, where technology can really help our communication for.

Well, and the 

[00:33:39] Matt: [00:33:40] democratization of access to tools either to help people grow in their communication or to help them amplify what they're trying to say. And I think about the access to opportunity not being equal. I mean, clearly me, myself being born in Canada, yourself being born in the United States, we had some significant advantages growing up in that environment and learn from [00:34:00] some really effective and impactful people and had access to tools and resources that would otherwise not be available.

Had we been born in other places at different times? I'm mindful of that. And I'm optimistic about the power of technology and being able to bring us closer together and learning more about the science around the mechanics of [00:34:20] communication. We've talked a lot about that in indirectly in this conversation.

But I think that there's a lot of people who can identify with the idea that sometimes the things that you want to say aren't always fully understood. Yes. Sometimes the things that you say and communicate are things you'd like to take back. . So I think we're all incentivized to pursue [00:34:40] and look at communication with a bit more intentionality.

If for Noah is a reason, then to ensure that we can be heard and seen and understood at a time when it's absolutely ripe for misinformation. Depending where you look for 

[00:34:54] Guest 1: your source of truth. Yeah. So ditto and amen to what you just said. You know, [00:35:00] what has to go hand in hand with learning communication and honing communication is, is really honing critical thinking skills as well.

They have to be partnered together. I'm on the board of a, a non-profit that. Teaches high school students skills around public speaking and debate. And it, it is [00:35:20] essential in teaching those students. And these are often underrepresented students who, who don't have access in their schools to this kind of education.

We pair communication skills with critical thinking skills so that people can understand the difference between what is information misinformation? What are the sources? What does this mean? Uh, and that's the only [00:35:40] way I believe that we. Continue to have healthy dialogue that is diverse and respectful, 

[00:35:47] Matt: which is essential because the decisions that we're all being asked to make have implications that we're realizing are much farther reaching than perhaps we once understood.

And whether it is in the context of organizational [00:36:00] culture and how we show up for our teams and our colleagues and our broader customers, whether it's how we show up for our families and the expectations around that. Um, you know, Matt, one thing I'm also interested. A lot these days is life design. Mm.

And the more leaders I talk to, uh, from all walks of life, there seems to be a realization and a desire for greater [00:36:20] intentionality around life design in large part, driven by communication, the desire to connect with people, the desire to choose more intentionally where you spend your time and who you spend your time with.

I think that's only positive as we look forward. If the question is, is how do we. To your earlier point, step away, perhaps from [00:36:40] the, the traditional way, we've always done things and allow ourselves the time and the space to be able to examine what is working for 

[00:36:46] Guest 1: us. And what's not, I agree. And, and life design is something I struggle with all the time, uh, trying to find that.

Place where I feel good about the work I do, but also good about spending time with friends and family and, and just [00:37:00] reflecting time. B I think the pandemic ha really opened a lot of people's eyes in terms of how we were spending our time, what was important to us, where we had to invest and improve things.

And, and I see it in my friends. I see it in my family, uh, and in my own life, how, how the pandemic helped at least. [00:37:20] On the table, what the different choices are that we're making, because they are choices. You know, many of us feel like we just have to do it, but in fact, there are choices we can make to do it in a certain way at a certain time.

Matt, I think we're 

[00:37:32] Matt: three for three in terms of really great conversations. 

[00:37:36] Guest 1: I would agree, Matt, you know, I, I totally enjoy your [00:37:40] insight, your way of connecting dots and, and the things that make you passionate and that you, you are interested in, uh, aligned very nicely with mine. So I appreciate the opportu.

[00:37:49] Matt: Well, I look forward to continuing the conversation offline. I will connect all of your details in the podcast show notes so people can find you on LinkedIn. They can look at your previous authoring, uh, efforts. And when you do [00:38:00] launch the new book, they'll be able to be front and center when that comes out.

[00:38:02] Guest 1: I appreciate it so much. Thank you, Matt. Thanks for your time. So

[00:38:14] Matt: N Ohr is a digital transformation consultancy. Working at the intersection of strategy [00:38:20] technology and people operations. We partner with organizations, private equity and venture capital firms to accelerate value creation and identify the organization's highest leverage initiatives. And this can take place in many forms from strategic planning and alignment to technology, procurement, implementation, and integration, [00:38:40] along with organizational design process reengineering and change management.

With our proven track record of working with complex high growth organizations, we provide a lens that goes beyond the balance sheet, increasing enterprise readiness, resilience, and value. For more information, [00:39:00] check us