“Feeling understood is one of the deepest psychological needs of human beings.” And yet, listening – the very key to understanding – is alarmingly absent in academic literature and communication practices. In his ground-breaking book, Jim Macnamara includes a comprehensive literature review, real-life examples of organisational practices and pointers on instituting an “architecture of listening”.
When organisations claim to be listening, he shows, it’s often not grounded in reality. Even when we listen, our focus is on what we’ll say next, and in an organisational context, this is amplified. In Organizational Listening, Macnamara shows how dangerous not listening is, and how, in the case of public hospitals, it has led to patient deaths. Social media, hailed as the ultimate democratiser, is another case in point. Here, success is measured by clicks and likes, but little dialogue is really happening. Listening, Macnamara reveals, is an act of courage that offers clear benefits – building genuine trust and real engagement from broader audiences than just ‘the usual suspects’. I would have liked to have seen more on ways to implement an “architecture of listening”, but as Macnamara himself concedes, more work needs to be done here. He hints at taking on the challenge. I certainly hope he does.
Organizational Listening is the most recent book by Jim Macnamara, a Professor of Public Communication at UTS.