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The space to listen, speak and share understanding

Listening can be a tricky business, as this video of Dwight Schrute (The Office, US) illustrates.

Yet to learn and innovate, it is vital that organisations listen well to their stakeholders (e.g. employees, customers, and colleagues). A recent article in the Journal of Change Management (Whitley & Price, 2014) showed that organisations that actively listen to their employees have employees that feel attached to the organisation and motivated to achieve its goals. On the other hand, organisations that do not listen well to their stakeholders may be faced with ‘financial costs, dysfunctional organisational communication, and organisations that dominate communities rather than work cooperatively with communities’ (Burnside-Lawry, 2011). Among other things, this is due to reduced sharing of knowledge and a resulting weak shared understanding across the organisation of organisational risks (e.g. safety, weak customer loyalty). Promoting and institutionalising organisational cultures that encourage speaking-up and listening is thus important for organisations. Organisations that thrive at this tend to excel at three things: they actively seek out novel information from stakeholders, they encourage stakeholders to voice concerns, and they create a shared understanding among the organisation and stakeholders.

The Inter-Personal and Organizational Communication (IPOC) research group based at the London School of Economics studies how organisations – and people in general – create this space to listen, voice thoughts and create shared understanding. We build on theories and methods from social psychology, human factors and the management sciences, and produce fundamental knowledge and innovative tools that help organisations manage performance.

At IPOC we are passionate about how people and organisations create this space, and we know that studying it will reveal theoretically stimulating and practically useful results in times to come! For now, let’s build that shared understanding at this very space. We post our short reflections on our research, and we welcome you to engage in conversation with us! No Dwight Schrute faces from us.

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