The Importance of Listening

October 26, 2011

This is another post in our Lab Notes series to give you a sneak peek at how we work behind the scenes at Quantified Self Labs.

“What’s your vision for Quantified Self?” and “Where will QS be in 10 years?” These are probably the two most common questions reporters ask us. I never know how to answer these questions, because QS wasn’t started with a grand vision to be imparted to the world.

When I officially came on board as QS Director last year, I was explicitly told to listen. Listen to this growing community, see what it wants to be, nurture it organically and help it thrive. This was my directive. Which I was excited about, because listening is my favorite thing to do.

If you’re familiar with Lean Startup ideas, this may sound familiar. As we work on QS, we iterate rapidly. New ideas are tested, and if they catch, we keep going with them. If not, we move on to something else. No time or resources are wasted on pushing forward with something people just don’t want.

We roll our own brand of this philosophy, weaving Nonviolent Communication (NVC) into it to make it more robust. NVC is all about recognizing that everyone has needs, and that everyone tries to meet their needs through their actions and words. If you can listen and understand these underlying needs, and communicate your own needs as well, then a peaceful, effective solution can be found for any challenge.

That last point is important. You have to listen to yourself, too. We incorporate our own needs and preferences into our work, to make it sustainable and fun for a long time going forward. We chat instead of using phones, we create community and content and experiences rather than spending time on marketing or name-dropping. Basically, we find the intersection of what we love to do and what the community wants us to do.

It’s like a dance. We step in close to partner with the larger QS community, connecting and guiding each other as we move to the music and listen kinesthetically to each other. It’s a wonderful feeling to wake up and dance through every day.

So where will QS be in 10 years? I haven’t the faintest idea. You tell us – we’re listening!

(Thanks to NCBrian for the cute picture!)

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