Sheila Heen: Strategy for Survival

Of Sheila Heen’s many corporate clients, those in the automotive industry are among the most eager to tweak their ways of integrating customer feedback into their decision making processes.

Heen told correspondent Lotta Backlund at the Nordic Business Forum Sweden that her clients in the industry are going through a period of change due in part to the rising popularity of ride-sharing applications like those provided by Uber, Lyft, and others, among other challenges.

“The next ten years are going to be the most interesting, and the industry will change more than once during those years, so they are really in a place of feeling that need, to get closer to their customers and to learn as fast as they can,” said Heen, founder of Triad Consulting Group and a lecturer at Harvard Law School.

While car makers may be feeling an especially acute need to adjust, Heen’s corporate clients outside of that industry, which include Pixar, John Deere, Novartis, and MetLife, among many others, are experiencing a similar transition.

“Putting feedback and rapid learning at the center of your organization is really the only strategy for survival,” Heen said. “The fastest way to make that your feedback culture is for the senior leaders to become better receivers,” she add, touching on points she raised during an earlier talk.

“They start to role model how to do it, they start to push people,” Heen continued. Though she acknowledged that the process is hard and some aspects may even seem unreasonable, by listening to what contents are dissatisfied with and better integrating their feedback into how decisions are made, companies are going to “turn on its head the way they usually do business.”

Heen is the co­author of two New York Times bestsellers, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, and Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Even When It’s Off Base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood).


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