Low Tech, High Impact

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.

— Peter Drucker

When turnaround legend Lou Gerstner took the helm at IBM in 1993, one of his boldest early actions was startlingly simple. As the projector bulb warmed up for the ritualized theater of yet another senior management meeting, Gerstner walked to the front of the room, turned off the machine and said, as politely as he could: “Let’s just talk about your business.”

Although screens have their strengths in presenting information, they are lousy at helping us absorb, process, and retain it. And good old handwriting better deepens conceptual understanding versus taking notes on a computer.

The great news if you want to answer Gerstner’s challenge is that you can do it with your own team in just a half-hour.

Including yourself, get six or more of your colleagues together. Divide yourselves into two or more small groups.

Give each group one piece of paper with a single question printed on it: Who is our customer?

Have each group spend 10 minutes writing down its answer. Then spend 15 minutes discussing how the groups’ answers are similar—and different.

There’ll be no need to collect phones at the door; from the very start, people will be too busy debating, iterating, and achieving better understanding to even bother reaching for their devices.