Figuring It Out

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What’s a great way to learn something new every day?

That’s the question I’m pursuing through this blog.

More specifically: through the practice of corporate communications, what are the best ways to delight customers, engage employees, wow shareholders and contribute to communities? And how will those approaches change and evolve over time?

One thing I’ve learned about learning is that it requires a good degree of humility. When you’ve reached a certain point in your career and your life, the expectation is that you know everything. Or that you should know everything. And be able to figure it out if you don’t.

After unsuccessfully giving something your best attempt, it takes courage and confidence to ask someone else for information, ideas or inspiration.

As advertising exec Court Crandall said in his TEDx Manhattan Beach talk in November, “as a creative person, your expertise is tied to your self concept.”

He talked about the growing gap between the world changing at an exponential rate and the human brain’s unchanging capacity (Stanford’s Carol Dweck might beg to differ with her concept of a growth mindset, but that’s the subject of a different post).

Court’s solution? Focus on learning, and turn each day into a paid internship. Hey, it worked for Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Internship, right?

But Court is on to something. In today’s world, no one has all the answers. Everyone comes to the table with different information, different ideas and different perspectives. It’s in the melding and shaping of those ideas that diamonds are formed from the crushing pressure of the business world.

Drawing on Socrates, Court advocates being a great facilitator – asking good questions, listening to ideas and embarking on a collective quest for knowledge.

John D. Wagner described this in a humorous piece for The New York Times, Learning a Foreign Language Called Public Relations.

A writer with an M.F.A. in poetry, he was surprised to land a senior role in corporate communications at a startup. “I spent each workday in full wing-it mode,” he began.

Yet he mastered the art of corporate improv – taking what was thrown at him and pivoting toward a brilliant yet simple solution, time after time. He asked great questions and acted with common sense. And when the startup crashed, he realized he’d learned to tell meaningful stories that motivated people.

And that master storytelling is one of the important things that corporate communications is all about.

It reminded me of a recent conversation with Smooch Reynolds, a luminary I met early in my career as a communicator. She was describing the importance of being able to navigate an FIO environment.

Because that’s what we’re all doing every day – figuring it out.

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, Social Media Savvy for Corporate Professionals, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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