Customer Reviews: Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power their Organizations
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on June 20, 2012
Those who think that your message is what you say are grossly mistaken. Truly, it's not an issue of what you say -- it's how you say it. Nonverbal communication (tone of voice, body language) is what your listener will hear. And it goes on from there. In an organization, there's more to a leader's nonverbal communication than how they say something. For example, is the message delivered through an email, through a handwritten note, or in person? In the leader's office, or in the subordinate's? There are many, many factors involved.

This book is about maximizing the power of your organizational communications. It's about getting the message across that you wish to communicate. It's about how to say things. It's about structuring your communications -- and your company -- to facilitate enlivening, energizing, and inspiring communication.

The book also covers listening, and how to structure leadership's listening activities, so as not to put subordinates on the defensive so that they manipulate information in their response.

Highly recommended for any leaders for whom organizational communication is important. Which should be all of them.

For an excellent guide in cultivating innovation in your organization, check out 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization. And for a primer in organized creativity, look at The Practice of Creativity: A Manual for Dynamic Group Problem-Solving.

Hopefully you found this review helpful.
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The results of dozens of major research studies confirm that, during a face-to-face encounter, the impact is determined as follows: body language, about 55-60%; tone of voice, about 30-35%; and what is said, about 10-15%. (Obviously, the results vary somewhat from one survey to the next.) The bottom line is that we communicate in several different ways whenever we "send a message" and the message received (IF it's received) is not necessarily the one sent or at least not the one [begin italics] intended [end italics].

What we have in this volume is a brilliant analysis of what works and what doesn't during what Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind characterize as "organizational conversations," a term that applies "to the full range of patterns and processes by which information circulates through a company -- all of the ways in which ideas, images, and other forms of organizational co tent pass between [and among] leaders and employees, or from one employee (or group of employees) to another...both in spirit and practice, organizational conversation is quite different from corporate communication" and they explain both the differences and why they are significant.

These are among the passages, themes, and concepts that caught my eye throughout the narrative:

o Why the shift from corporate communication to organizational conversation has occurred (Pages 7-8)
o Trust-based leadership (13-16)
o How to gain and give trust (18-20)
o Practical tips on how to promote "conversational intimacy" (55-60)
o The interdependence of "hard" assets and "soft" assets (81-85)
o "Three Pillars of Wisdom" (105-108)
o The benefits and perils of allowing employees to generate organizational (social) content (137-140)
o How to enable and leverage employee-generated content (163-169)
o The unique challenges of formulating an appropriate strategy for organizational conversation (178-184)
o How to determine "which communication efforts fall into which buckets" (225-228)

Groysberg and Slind make effective use of several real-world mini-case studies that illustrate both the potential benefits and (yes) perils of organizational conversation. There are exemplars: Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (Chapter 2), Cisco Systems (Chapter 5), EMC Corporation (Chapter 8), and Kingfisher PLC (Chapter 11).

Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original expectations and one of the reasons is defective leadership (lack of character and/or incompetence), especially at the C-level. That said, all organizations need trust-based leadership at all levels and in all areas of operation. One of the most important and yet least understood benefits of organizational conversation is its unique power to facilitate, indeed expedite building trust-based relationships throughout the given enterprise.

In my opinion, Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind are world-class empiricists and pragmatists who have an insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn't, and why. They are determined (obsessed?) to help develop as many trusted leaders who can then make effective use of organizational conversation to power their organizations.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out other sources, such as Holly Weeks's Failure to Communicate: How Conversations Go Wrong and What You Can Do to Right Them; TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, co-authored by Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard; Robert B. Cialdini 's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion; and two co-authored by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler: Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success and Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition.
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on June 5, 2013
One of the things I love about this book is it doesn't simply present the same corporate rock stars that everyone else discusses, such as Apple, Southwest, Google, etc. This book presents a ton of real-world examples from a wide variety of companies, such as Cisco, Exelon, EMC, McKesson, Duke Energy, Verenium, and many more. Whether you are a CEO, VP of Corporate Communication, or other business leader, this book will help you improve your leadership and get a pulse on the latest trends in internal communication.
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on November 14, 2014
Consistent with Clay Christensen's model of theory creation, I was looking for a book that would answer the question, "In which situations should a leader communicate via email, phone call, blogs, and/or one-on-one conversation to address issues that arise in his/her organization. This question was, of course, triggered by observing managers/leaders mismanage situations by choosing a less effective mode for communicating their message. I read this book in hopes of answering this question. And indeed Professor Groysberg did! I also learned much more - particularly gaining some great examples/case studies on other exemplary practices from other organizations. Excellent book. Well worth the read.
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on July 16, 2012
It used to be thought that the major source of power for managers and leaders was their position. It was his vested position that gave a manager the controls of productivity, strategy and the firm's future. That is simply no longer the case.

Out of the thousands of books on communication in organizations, Talk, Inc. takes today's changing world of business seriously and provides a unique perspective. As findings by Harvard's Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind reveal in their new book, Talk, Inc., leadership is fundamentally conversation-powered. Indeed, as the authors declare, conversations are the new source of organizational power.

Why conversation-powered leadership?
What's clear is that economic change has demanded new, sophisticated ways to process and share information. But that's not all. Flatter organizations, diverse and widely dispersed global organizations, generational differences, the new social networks and, perhaps, above all, the brute fact that the pace of business is profoundly accelerated, have all made conversational expertise the ultimate competency of leadership success.

The hard skills are easy to learn. It's the soft skills of conversation and relationships that easily sabotage workers' hopes for the future. And, as businesses are learning, the lack of those soft skills also sabotages strategy and the bottom line. So Groysberg and Slind's new work is a welcome addition to every manager's bookshelf. Indeed, the authors do something long overdue in this field: they refashion the concept of organizational communication around face-to-face conversation.

Four practical, learnable "talk" principles
As a result of extensive research in widely disparate industries and companies of all sizes, the authors discover a set of conversational principles for this new economy. There's no one way, monologic approach to communication here. Instead, the authors find that successful leaders engage with a new social technology, comprising four concrete skills:
* Intimacy. Yep. That's the agenda and there's no baloney here. The crippling disease of interpersonal distance has to go out the window. It will, of course, require a great deal of trust-building to get beyond the hierarchical practices of the past.
* Interactivity. Both members in a conversation are going to have to talk and listen. This kind of social technology won't come easy to those schooled in the presentation models of the past. I've been beating that drum for years and here's the research to support the success of that principle.
* Inclusion. There's a logical sequence of principles from intimacy to interactivity to inclusion. The consequence is what you see on the internet brought to face-to-face settings: the triumph of employee-generated content. The subtext, of course, is that in today's complex world, no manager, no single individual has all the information necessary for success.
* Intentionality. So do you plan your conversations? Is it just "going with the flow?" Or is something else required? The big picture will be part of the conversations and it will drive the strategic alignment for everyone to make better decisions on their jobs.

Is this really new?
Aristotle implied all this stuff in his "Rhetoric," and the twentieth century drove it home. But Talk, Inc. sets its competencies inside the organization of the 21st century. This is really new. And it's a book every manager and employee will want.
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on June 14, 2012
Talk Inc combines the longstanding lessons on communication with the new modes of information technology to define itself as the new must have primer for corporate communications. As a physician administrator, I was hopeful that this book could be applied to many disciplines and was not disappointed. The style was directive but engaging in its prose, both easy to read and easy to apply. This book should be required reading for anyone in a corporate leadership role in the 21st century.
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on December 22, 2013
This is a really great book. Take the time to read it, and you will not regret it. Boris's research into leadership, and managing stars, and super stars in an organization combine with a deep understanding of the modern employee give great insights to any manager, executive, or CEO/Owner.

I have had the pleasure of studying under Boris at HBS. He is an even better public speaker teacher than writer (and he's a darn good writer). He is very self effacing and the "aha" moments never cease whether your reading his books or listening to his lecture.

5 stars+
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on February 21, 2013
It is a good read, but bits of it seem like advertisement for a particular company (Cisco). I grew tired of these chapters. Also having come from the older generation, the long conversation about how important one-on-one communication is seemed like a no-brainer. I thought alot about their discussion and one of the conclusions I came to is prhaps the younger generation has lost this concept due to the internet and all the communication channels it offers. Thus it seems like a new idea that needs to be emphasized?
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on July 27, 2012
This book is an excellent tool for any organization looking to better engage employees, elevate organizational trust, and update tired communication practices. The ideal reader is the executive in charge, or the business leader who is tasked with culture, corporate communication, HR, and/or organizational strategy engagement.

In my career at a FORTUNE 500 company, I found the assignment of engaging employees far more daunting than engaging external audiences. At the start, I did a ton of trial and error, research, and interviewed dozens of external firms to help me crack the code. I wish I had this book when I started that effort. This book will help any company fast-forward their efforts toward cultural cohesion, aligned execution, and external brand power.

A full review can be found here on my blog: [...]

Polly Pearson
Pearson Advisory
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on March 29, 2016
Use this book all the time.
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