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Thomas A. Stewart is the Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer (CMKO) of the global management consulting firm Booz & Company. Stewart most recently served as editor and managing director of[…]

In the vein of Rodney King, Tom Stewart asks,’why can’t we all just get along?’

Question: What is your question?

Tom Stewart: Who would I like to … ?  …  I think the most important step to growing a conversation is not adding the number of mouths, but increasing the number of ears.  I mean, I’m one to talk.  I am one to talk, but I absolutely think that some of the most important things that we can do is the … is listening better.  I am still moved by … gosh … I forgot the name of the guy … “Why can’t we all get along?”  Rodney Brown.  Was that the one?  I think he was.  I think so.  Rodney Brown, who sort of … said, “Why can’t we all get along?”  And it seems to me that the question is not so much who … who we should be talking to, but who should be listening.  And how much … how much more listening should we be doing?  I mean there’d be a lot of people I would want to … to talk to.  And they would … many of them not being the usual suspects.  I mean that would be part of my job.  Part of what I would try to do would be try to find people who are not the usual suspects.  When people talk about business ethics, for example – not an insignificant issue – they too often talk to people who are safe, or retired, or already rich.  And what I want to talk about in business ethics, I want to talk to somebody who has college tuition, and a mortgage to pay, and a boss who asks him to cut corners.  And so I want to talk to people who actually have some skin in the game of some of these decisions, whether they’re healthcare decisions, or ethical decisions, or political decisions.  And they may not be experts.  And so you don’t necessarily wanna talk to them for their expertise.  You wanna talk to them for what … for … for what’s making it hard, to try to figure out then what is the expertise you wanna bring around that?  So I think that’s what I would do.  I would try to find the people who are in the middle of these issues and not … and go to them to try to … to understand what the dynamic is in their lives.  And these are … I mean I’ve described a couple of issues where they might be “ouchy” issues, or “I’m hurt.  I’m depressed.”  But you might also try to find somebody who is on the cusp of greatness, or  . . . or who’s doing really exciting things and say, “Alright.  What’s holding you back?  What’s making …?  Where did it come from?  What’s got you going about this?”  And just … just listen and try to then pick up things that other people might … might then … that people listening might say, “Oh!  That’s interesting!  I’ve got an idea for …”  Do something with that or around that.  That’s what I’d do.

Recorded on: 6/22/07