Turn your Business into a Technology Company (Part 4) By Dr Strive Masiyiwa

Image Credit: KMW – Ubuntu Hope
__Listen before you leap.

In a recent interview, a former CEO of Apple Computer, John Sculley, talked about entrepreneurship, innovation and new “disruptive” technologies.  He said his Apple business card back then didn’t call him Chief Executive Officer. It said: “Chief Listener” …

As you transform your business into a technology company, you’ll have important decisions to make. You, too, will need to become a “chief listener.” Not every exciting new technology will be right for every business.

Not long ago I met a young farmer from Zambia who told me of innovations he was introducing on his smallholding of only a few acres:

He knew he had to introduce hybrid seeds to increase his yield…  seed technology.

He was using fertilizers and testing out different application methods… soil management technology.

He was introducing storage bags to protect his harvest from losses… technology.

He was interested in buying a dryer to ensure that he could extend the life of his crops… technology.

He was using his cell phone to find buyers for his produce, and had set up a website… technology.

He regularly talked to other farmers and exchanged information on Facebook and Instagram… technology.

He was using solar power to light up his home and power up some of his equipment… technology.

He was part of a cooperative planning to buy a tractor and other equipment to improve productivity and output… again, technology.

He was aware of what other young progressive farmers were doing all over Africa, using social media to keep abreast of news from Ghana to Brazil and beyond… Technology, technology, technology.

This young man had done his homework and was in the process of making careful technology choices on his path to prosperity.

So, how might you get started?  If you’re already in business, you must first take the time to listen -- to your customers, your business team, and a few trusted experts, whether many or few. I’ve already discussed the importance of reading…

# What do people in your market or industry say they want? Is it available? Why or why not?
How can technology help?
# How can you and your team do your work better -- more productively, efficiently and quickly?
How can technology help?
# Do you know what your competitors are doing?
How can technology help you do it better?

The business magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes once said: “The art of conversation lies in listening.”

__Listening is a critical form of market research that doesn't have to cost you a lot of money.

“If we were supposed to talk more than listen, we would have two tongues and one ear,” said the great American writer, Mark Twain in the 1880s.

Twain was reportedly offered the opportunity to invest in the first telephone by its inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, but he decided… no.  I guess he didn’t like the sounds of that new technology! I wonder who he listened to? Back then, a telephone was no doubt a very disruptive idea.

Basic listening homework includes deciding the right questions, then:

# listening to customers, suppliers, competitors and experiences of trusted others;
# consulting with experts (not just the ones trying to sell you new technology).

__Please don’t just wake up one morning and decide on “impulse” to spend or invest lots of money just because a salesman or so-called expert tells you that new technology alone will make you rich and successful. You must do your homework first!

In today’s high-tech world, people still talk much more than they listen. Did you know the words “silent" and “listen" have the exact same letters in them? There are so many more ways to do your business research now than ever before.

Everyone can learn and benefit from being a “Chief Listener.”

To be continued. . .


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