Talking. Much underrated.

by | Feb 20, 2016

The charity sector is many things but the one thing that frustrates me most is its inability to see beyond the knee-jerk and engage in proper open dialogue with others, sharing their experiences and tapping into their hard earned skills. Some are so tight lipped I’m surprised they even advertise their existence at all.

To qualify this, I would never expect any organisation to divulge client information, employment information or detailed financials. That would be wrong and that’s not what I’m talking about. Being able to share experiences of a supplier or a specific campaign, the use of a piece of technology – the list really is endless – adds depth and colour to the information you already have.

I figure that other sectors are the same. Surely this can’t be unique to charities?

For many years, when I was client-side, I inhabited the unenviable data role. Usually there was only person. There are no opportunities to go and wander into another office and ‘…grab someone for ten minutes…’ or ‘…run something by them…’ or ‘…pick their brains…’ It left only one choice: go outside the organisation to get my questions answered. Now five years working for myself I have no choice.

But it’s a truly enlightening activity. Seeking the input of someone who has a different view and a different set of experiences challenges your thinking. It can be the source of inspiration. It can be the foundation of learning something new, adding to your skill set. And when you broaden your thinking, everyone benefits. Why then is it met with such suspicion?

It seems to me that this is one of life’s unanswerable questions. I’ve been sorting out data for a long time and yet I’m still learning. There is no shame in this – the admission that I don’t know everything, that other people might have better ideas than me, or more knowledge. Is it the discomfort of admitting we might need help or have a knowledge-gap that drives our defensive, tight-lipped stance?

Unlike the Berlin Wall, we can’t take a hammer to the invisible barriers that stop us engaging in free discourse, I can only urge you to give it a try. Pick up the phone and ask a question. Send an email and ask for someone’s opinion. Or make an extra cup of tea, take it to the bloke in the other office and run your idea by him.

Thank you to all the people over the years who have provided answers to my questions, provided advice and proffered their opinion. I am the sum of your invaluable help.

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