Cliff Richard didn’t have a smartphone when he wrote his Number 1 hit.

But ‘we don’t talk anymore’ is a problem that is affecting both our social and professional lives. In an age where the quantity of communication has expanded exponentially, it’s funny how we spend less time talking with each other. We even spend more time on our devices than we do sleeping.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my smartphone and I couldn’t live without it. But I increasingly find myself working with businesses who think they are dealing with an issue, when in fact they haven’t established the full picture because they haven’t spoken to the right people.

This is a costly problem and wastes both time and money.

In the digital age it is easy to think that we are communicating more effectively. We have more data to inform decision-making than ever before, and more tools to crunch the data than we could wish for. But we also need to identify and talk to the right people to contextualise the data with real experiences.

An evolving response

The needs and experiences of customers, employees and partners are perpetually evolving. An effective response is only possible if a business knows what is actually happening, not what it wants to believe is happening.

Talking with the right people gives us a real-world, real-time assessment of a given problem or situation.

While the signposts to the solution will exist in the data, externalising the needs and experiences of the individuals involved will reveal what actually happens. And accessing these experiences is only possible by identifying and bringing together relevant people from across a business.

Once these valuable experiences have been brought to light, they need to be examined in a non-judgmental manner. This is where perpetual thinking groups can help, as they remove politics and ego to create a constructive, trusting environment in which experiences can be analysed. By encouraging participants to share and reflect on their personal experiences, perpetual thinking groups enable businesses to get to the root cause of a given problem.

Digital tools can trick us into thinking that we’re communicating effectively and efficiently. But in an increasingly digital environment, spending time talking with the people involved in the delivery of a product or process to understand their needs and experiences is more important than ever.

Although Cliff’s ‘We don’t talk anymore’ may have been written about a disintegrating relationship, it’s a problem that is just as applicable to the modern business environment. But if we bring the right people together in the right environment, we can obtain an informed understanding of the real-world issues that are affecting experiences across a business, its customers and its partners.

And that is something worth talking about.