Up personal: The power of conversation

There is a lot of discussion about disruption across most industries. In financial services, it’s fintechs and insurtechs, in other sectors other types of challengers threaten the incumbents. Much of what I read focus on the new kids on the blocks’ lack of legacy systems, superior-tech, speed of implementation, the culture of “fail fast” and test-and-learn as the reasons for why they are a threat to the old guard. Whilst all of this is true, there is one additional reason: conversation.

I once heard a description of companies that changed the way I view them.

Companies, “are a system of conversations”

 Dr Johan Strumpfer 

I would posit, therefore, that part of a company’s strength comes from the richness of its conversations. The breadth and quality of those conversations. 

Allow me to relate two personal anecdotes. As a young actuarial student, I worked for a number of years in a product development team. Whilst it was filled with brilliant individuals who were tasked with designing products, not once did I have a conversation with either a customer or an advisor. The conversations we had were insular, based on our own prior knowledge and experiences, and of course by keeping an eye on the competition. The paucity of conversation beyond our small group prevented us from doing so much better than we did. 

Contrast that with my experience later in my career working with fintech startups. My experience has always been that startups are incredibly eager to talk (but never waffle!), and are very open and giving with information and ideas. They are actively seeking out conversations with experts, interesting people, and influencers outside their current network. They do this purposefully, and I see it as a form of conversational lateral thinking. This richness of conversation informs their thinking, invites and creates “eureka moments”, and helps them shape what they are busy executing on. 

This approach and mindset can be incredibly helpful not just for industry incumbents, but also for independent consultants and freelancers in their approach to continuous development and how they advise their clients. An intentional effort to have the richness of conversation can become a real competitive advantage. As I have said before, no matter how smart and creative you are, the numerical advantage of brainpower lies outside of yourself. Why not talk to them?  

Having now started a new phase in my own career, I am seeing this first hand again, and I find it incredibly exciting. The talent out there is truly astounding, both on the consultant and client-side! My own conversations are being further enriched, and I am trying to share and connect as much as possible.