What Terry Gross Knows About Learning

by Feb 20, 2020Leadership

Terry Gross, host of the fabulous radio show Fresh Air, on National Public Radio, makes her interviews sound like conversations. Lest you think this means her show misses critical points with her guests, rest assured it does not. What Gross does is the outcome of deep preparation and a method she describes in a The New York Times article. Her method has broad application to virtually any situation.

Given the cost of decision mistakes, including hiring, promotion, evaluating acquisition targets, etc., it behoves us to take a clear-eyed view of our own methods. Further, an honest recounting of where we were accurate and why, as well as where we were not, is of far greater value than a workshop on decision-making.

The secret sauce in decision-making is in understanding that decisions involve our perceptions, thinking and emotion. All three.

If you listen to Gross’ show, she shows curiosity about obvious and less obvious aspects of her guests. This allows her to learn what she wouldn’t otherwise without being an annoying amateur psychologist.

This approach would be valuable for anyone in business, making decisions of any type. It is in contrast to, but can easily augment, typical methods used to mitigate risks which are of a technical and analytical nature. The missing link is a method that fully incorporates individual and collective beliefs, emotion, and habits. These are “below the waterline” and often denied or criticized. However, that is precisely what gives them power. People will go to extraordinary lengths to hide or rationalize what is influencing their decisions if they know they will be mocked or ignored.

The secret sauce in decision-making is in understanding that decisions involve our perceptions, thinking and emotion. Click To Tweet

Here’s how to access more information without getting out your microscope.

Demonstrate curiosity. It’s not enough to think you are curious. It is important to convey it by asking questions but also by adding your own, relevant comments. This encourages people to share.

Show enthusiasm. No need for a Dr. Freud routine, be engaged and have some fun.

Prepare. Don’t ask questions to be asking questions. You don’t need to show dominance to learn.

Observe. Watch for energy or the lack of it. Listen for themes and patterns. Ask about things that don’t seem to connect.

Get off your high horse. Act like a peer, not a prosecutor.

As discussed in my book, The Merger Mindset, bad decisions create drag on people and organizations. Anyone can improve by learning from Terry Gross about how to learn by talking to people in a genuinely curious and open way.

I’d love to hear from you about how you learn about other people, situations, and business issues. What works? What trips you up?

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