I am an old dog. Learning new tricks, techniques or skill sets does not come easy. My 20-year old daughter, my wife and, I suspect, the team I am privileged to work with will all agree.

But as I listened to Neil Harbisson’s TED presentation from earlier this year titled “I Listen to Colors” (a 10-minute video that will amaze and energize), I was again convinced of the need to develop new and improved listening skills.

Harbisson, an artist, was born 100% color blind. His eyes see only shades of gray. But thanks to an amazing technical innovation that he wears (he refers to the device as an eyeborg), he hears in living color. In simple terms, the device converts the color it “sees” into an audible frequency, and Harbisson has trained his brain to interpret these sounds as colors.

In compelling fashion, the artist explains how, though unable to “see” color in conventional ways, he is able to experience the magnificence of color in a way only possible by listening.

Listening And The Enhanced Experience

Harbisson’s is an account of how what he hears enhances what he sees.

This is not a new concept. Film and video producers are intimately familiar with the role sound plays in the way an audience interprets what it sees. Try watching a movie, or a televised sporting event without the sound added and tweaked for effect. It is not the same experience.

With the help of his eyeborg, what Harbisson hears adds dimension and meaning to what he sees. And his experience points to three ways to think about effective listening that will dramatically improve business development efforts (not to mention the impact it might have on personal relationships).

  1. Forget what you think you know, and rethink the way you listen. Preconceived notions, opinions and definitions limit what one hears and inevitably color perception. Intentional listening is creative, and seeks to hear what has not been heard before.
  2. Effective listening is strategic — targeted — in nature. Listen to the wrong source, and risk a distorted message. Target listening efforts correctly, and what you hear may be music to your ears.
  3. Listening is a proactive experience. Far from passive, intentional listening actively weaves the fabric and defines the color of dynamic communication. This is the critical component in the process.

In a marketplace preoccupied with message delivery, nothing will differentiate a business development professional more than a laser focus on intentional listening. Abandon agendas. Forget conventional wisdom. Talk less.

We have the knowledge, tools and technologies at our fingertips. It will likely require learning a new trick or two — but we may be shocked at what the market will tell us…if we’ll listen.