Competitive Advantage, Culture, and Communication....oh my!

By: Ariana Friedlander Friday November 30, 2018 2 comments Tags: Ariana Friedlander

By Ariana Friedlander, MPA

Rosabella Consulting founder

I've often heard leaders say they aspire to make Northern Colorado the next Silicon Valley. This image may or may not resonate with you, and it's not one that I find particularly alluring myself. But when I dig deeper to understand what that means to people, I feel more excited.friedlander-mugfixed

The deeper meaning I've uncovered is that Northern Colorado has the potential to position itself as a hub for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development that positively impacts communities outside our own. Indeed, we have a great combination of resources, two universities, a supportive startup culture including incubators, a good quality of life that attracts talent and a breadth of natural resources.

Those assets, in and of themselves, are not enough to drive the kind of innovation for us to have the competitive advantage above all those other areas aspiring to be the next "Silicon Valley."

So what is our differentiator?

Judith E. Glaser says it best: "To get to the next level of greatness, depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of the relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations. Everything happens through conversations!" 

That means we need leaders in business, government, nonprofits and education that embody “Conversational Intelligence” in order for us to get to the next level of greatness.

Glaser defines Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) as "the hardwired and learnable ability, to connect, navigate and grow with others." C-IQ is based on the latest research on the neuroscience of conversation.

Using fMRI technology researchers have been able to better understand how our brains function and how different stimuli impacts brain function. For example, Angelika Dimoka, PhD, uncovered that trust and distrust reside in different parts of our brains.

When we trust someone the pre-frontal cortex is engaged, which is where we possess our rational thinking skills, among other things. When we distrust someone, the primitive brain is engaged, which controls our fear responses. 

That means that trust is the basis for effective, co-creating conversations. When we have distrust in conversations, our primitive brain is running the show, and our perspective becomes very myopic and short-sighted. Whereas, when trust is present the pre-frontal cortex is fully engaged, and we are able to step into uncertainty, see others’ perspectives and imagine new possibilities together. 

While there's a common notion that it takes time to build trust, we actually know that our brains decide within .07 seconds of contact if someone is trustworthy or not.

And further research has demonstrated that trust is situational, so you might trust your co-worker to drive you to lunch but not to fly you to a conference (unless she's a pilot, of course). That's one reason why we get so positional and argumentative in conversations with people we inherently trust.

There are a lot of things that leaders can do to build trust based on neuroscience research. However, it all starts with how we approach conversations in the first place. Glaser suggests that the overarching mindset of a conversationally intelligent leader is openness to influence.

One of the ways I prime myself to be open to influence in conversation is by embracing a beginner’s mindset. Think back to a time you were learning a new skill or pursuing a new hobby. When we are just beginning we are filled with curiosity and an openness to learn.

Unfortunately, as professionals develop expertise (and the confidence to rise to leadership positions) their perspective becomes more fixed and less open to influence, and this limits the potential to build trust in collaborative situations. 

Therefore, if we want our region to fulfill this aspiration to be a hub for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development that positively impacts our community and beyond, we need leaders that approach conversations with an openness to be influenced.

From there, we will be able to cultivate our innate Conversational Intelligence, thereby giving us a competitive advantage to co-create a vibrant future together.


Ariana Friedlander

About the Author: Ariana Friedlander

Ariana Friedlander, MPA, is an author, a leadership expert, and founder of Rosabella Consulting. She works with leaders doing “Business as Unusual” and specializes in fostering positive change within organizations and companies of all shapes and sizes. Her first book, “A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Business Your Way” was released in 2016. Ariana made the Northern Colorado 40 Under Forty list in 2015 and received the 4th Annual Quid Novi award for Innovative Thought. She is a Master Facilitator and a certified Conversational Intelligence coach. Ariana earned her Master’s degree in organizational leadership from the University of Delaware and has a Bachelor’s degree in medical anthropology from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.

Ariana, I'm so impressed. Your article around Judith's work is building on the idea of hers which is, everything does happen through conversations. Bravo!

- Gloria Manchester

Thanks Arianna, Nice to see you posting on this innovation newsletter. I wholeheartedly agree and while my career proves out the need and value of more open dialog, inclusion and both objective and diverse viewpoints, our work now is designed to enable leaders to greet new thinking while seeing how their fears too have been designed into the solution. Merry Christmas.

- Bill Van Eron