It’s often said how the internet is making many arenas more of an “an even playing field.” Customers have more power, companies have less, in many situations. I think the transfer of power is a direct correlation to the transfer of knowledge that is taking place.
And being that we are smack dab in the middle of a knowledge-based economy, the way that we seek, share, and disseminate knowledge is going through big change.
It used to be teacher had the power and the student was beholden, at least until such point that the student could take on the teacher intellectually. Now that we can share information rather easily, (although the “NYTimes”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/politics/12inquire.html is about to be investigated by the FBI for writing about the secret Bush wiretapping policies), there are great opportunities brewing.
On a personal level, I was angrily accused by a dear and treasured client this past week for being condescending in how I was managing her project. It was a hard blow to my ego for sure. And I could make all sorts of proclamations about how and why I have tightened the reigns on this particular job. But she was right about one thing: I did have thoughts now and then of surprise, at actually how little she knew about certain things. Surprise because she is very bright. She is very engaged. She interacts with her project a lot. But darnit, there are some web fundamentals she just has not yet grasped. This surprise has slowly turned into irritation, mainly because I saw more time I would be putting in to the project to educate her on these issues, and two, because I did not know how I would bill for that. (She is on a fixed price job that does not include side trips to explain how things work.)
I find it really hard sometimes to explain to a really bright person what it is they don’t know. A lot of us, myself included, can get very attached to our smarts. But the point here now is that the subtleties in my energy triggered an avalanche of resentment in her. So it’s my job to bring her and the project back in off the ledge.
What I am working on this weekend is to turn the table and practice thinking peer to peer. What is it that she can teach me in this moment? How could I have handled the situation differently? How can I keep my belief — there are just things she does not know, despite her protestations — without feeling irritated by her resistance to acknowledge that and/or pay to learn it?
I am a firm believer in speaking the truth. In my experience, much more often than not people do indeed want the truth, though they may react negatively to it at first. But when delivering the truth, I now want to have the energy of learning, of student, so that it does not come across “one up or one down” but is a curious (not critical) exploration. A mutual sharing of observations. Delivered on my part with courtesy and respect. And hopefully reciprocated. I can challenge myself to see how neutral I can get my own energy, and then watch and see if that gets me a different response.