Steve Campbell: What Did You Say?

There’s no doubt that technology has revolutionized the way we communicate. It’s truly amazing how much information we can get and how fast we can get it thanks to the Internet, social media, and through our phones and the countless number of TV stations. But along the way, we are slowly losing one important human trait—the art of “good listening.”

I’m the first to admit that I’m addicted to my iPhone, my iPad, my laptop, and my TV. There’s just so much information out there (the good, bad and ugly). I can’t get enough of it. We have at our fingertips the ability to get our news within seconds, to easily connect with long lost friends and relatives, and to catch up with work on the road—even when we are thousands of miles away from headquarters. Good stuff!

But technology is turning many of us into awful listeners. It’s all too easy to multitask. Are we really doing a good job listening if we’re playing with our phone at the same time? And nearly everyone is talking at each other—through websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook—and not to each other. Technology has handed a microphone to all of us. Just moments ago, I checked out a CNN newsfeed on Facebook and there are more than 3,000 comments about the upcoming GOP presidential debate. People love to share their views. But is anyone listening?

And as we have evolved into commentators and self-proclaimed experts, we seem less apt to change our minds on issues. The wealth of public comments on the Internet isn’t usually thoughtful discussion or “good listening”—it’s usually people talking about provocative topics, stating their opinions in a firm way, maybe name-calling someone who disagrees, and then moving on. It’s a waste of time.

“Good listening” is such a lost art that the trait stands out when I meet someone who has it. And when I say “good listening,” I’m not talking about someone who will just allow you to speak—all the while preparing a response—but rather someone who actively listens and wants to engage in a meaningful discussion.

When I interview job applicants, I’m all ears when it comes to looking for a candidate who is a good listener. Good listeners stand out because they are so rare. On a few occasions, when a candidate is talking non-stop, I’ve thought “I’m going to let him babble on until he stops.” It’s amazing how long someone can filibuster.

So why does this matter in the world of healthcare technology—or frankly any profession?

Good listening skills are essential to providing good customer service, to building good interdepartmental relationships, and to managing up and down within any organization. And good listening skills can help us learn. I never thought I would quote former CNN host Larry King, but as Larry once said: “I never learned anything while I was talking.”

Good listening skills are also key to a consensus-building organization such as AAMI. Members need to hear and understand the differing views at the table—the manufacturer, the regulator, the clinician, and the engineers and technicians—to help produce solid decisions. Thankfully—and you might expect me to say this but I believe it’s true—AAMI has a high proportion of good listeners who volunteer their expertise.

That said, we all have room for improvement and can’t take “good listening” for granted. Don’t get me wrong: I love technology and all that it has brought us. I just don’t want good listening skills to slip away while we are checking on Facebook updates for the 20th time in the day.

Steve Campbell is chief operating officer at AAMI.

3 thoughts on “Steve Campbell: What Did You Say?

  1. What has the iPhone revolution actually done for the common biomed who actually works with tools and services equipment? How many techs use iPhones and keep manuals, guides, help files? PM check sheets? Can we use the camera in our smartphone to scan a device barcode and have a work order open for us? Can we do a department inventory using our smartphone to scan control numbers while the Wi-Fi in the phone interfaces with the CMMS and updates inventory? Is there an app for these functions? Can caregivers type in a biomed work request in hospital order entry including the device control number and have a work order text arrive at our phone? It seems the smartphone revolution is leaving biomeds in a backwater. I at least use my phone camera to take pictures of CE#s and do my paperwork at the end of the day the old-fashioned way — banging it into a keyboard. I have a collection of common user manuals and guides in iBooks and e-mail them to clinicians in real time. What has the iPhone/smartphone revolution done for your actual real world biomedical practice?

  2. I agree. Those over 40 are better communicators than those under 40. Yes, I do have a smartphone, and it makes my life easier to get information and share it. I prefer to talk face to face. For me, this eliminates any confusion of my message. We tend to shortcut our info when texting or even e-mail. That form of communication leaves out 2/3 of the message: expression/emotion and body language.
    There is a TV program called Ascension. A spaceship lifted off Earth in the early 60s. Try imagining no personal phones, limited 2-way radio, basic location-to-location coms, and general paging for the spread verbal information. No texting, Tweeting, Facebook, or Snapchat.
    There have been a few days where I left my phone at home, and the day was very relaxing even though I was busy. It was great. I suggest everyone try it; you’ll find it freeing, too. Yes, I take my phone to meetings because it’s in my pocket; however, I do silence it and ignore it.

  3. Besides not listening, there may also be a lack of doing, or certainly doing anything that matters. While we are so so busy reading, and posting, and commenting, and liking, and re-tweeting, is anything good coming from most of it? Or is it mostly busyness passing for useful activity? And we might remember that multitasking is a myth. What we really do is highly distracted serial tasking.

    People once worried about the inefficiency of too frequent e-mail checking and responding. Instead we now have phone in hand at all times responding to everything in almost real time.

    Steve- Did you go a meeting today without your phone?

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