Thursday, September 24, 2009

From consonants to culture

I did not see this one coming.

I've been talking for years about HD Voice (I'll post another thing about what that is) and how it becomes essential when you have a phone session that's anything less than perfect:  accents, speakerphones, room noise, soft talkers, identification, technical talk or detail of any sort.  But a CEO was telling a story today that added a new dimension for confusion:  culture.

He spoke to us with a noticeable European accent, although nothing particularly thick.  And he told us how some months ago, he was leading a discussion, by speakerphone, with his company's Asia team.  He got to the core of the discussion and launched into a long, involved explanation of the most critical points.  He had some (but not too many) slides, he crefully guided the team through his spreadsheets, he illustrated his lecture with other stories and lessons, and finally reached the triumphant end of a well thought-out and clearly delivered exposition, energized and ready for the flood of excited questions he knew would be coming.

Instead, there was silence.  The distant chirping of crickets.  The room held a long, uncomfortable pause, and finally a quiet, respectful voice hesitatingly stuttered a question that made it instantly clear that they not only didn't understand what he had said, they didn't even understand what the subject was!

As he drew them out with questions of his own, the light dawned.  He realized that their culture was one in which they would never interrupt with questions.  By their traditions, many of them would never ask, even afterward - the greater offense would be to question such a person as him, so they accepted their lot and held silent.

This CEO realized then that any tool that could help them better talk together was going to be essential if this partnership were to succeed.  That's when he had the link converted to wideband audio, HD Voice, for the next meeting.

So I'm adding "culture" to the master list of why-HD-is-essential.  It's another element of how people talk, and it can get in the way when they can't talk clearly.