Big Ears

“There are Big Ears in the room” my dear friend says, as she spots her not-so-discreet children listening in on the adult conversation… Whether as eavesdropping children or interested adults, we’ve all done it – honed in on someone else’s chat when we’re not an active participant. Call it “nosy” but believe it or not, turning up your “big ears” can really help you tune in to your community’s talk of the town. Here’s how:

Assign several of your key staff to pick an off-site location where they’ll work for one hour. The library, the coffee shop, a local diner, a park, the mall, a food court, ice cream shop…any location in your community where people gather. Their new work assignment is to act as a fly on the wall, so-to-speak: tune-in their Big Ears and really listen to not only what’s being said, but also what’s not being said. The goal is to return with a list of ten bullet points of key topics, program/service ideas, or overall observations. Then, as a team, review the lists. Are there similarities or themes that can be identified? How can the “intel” be constructively used in your agency? The most important part of this exercise is to create an action plan based on what was heard. The actions can be simple tweaks to services, adjustments to existing processes, or even the creation of new programs…all of which may never have happened without taking time to listen.

With intention and structure, you can turn a seemingly innocent and simple concept into a very powerful tool.