Listen, Do You Want To Know A Secret? (My Age of Conversation chapter)

Six months ago my chapter in Age of Conversation 2 was published. Although I’m reprinting my chapter here, it’s for a good cause (Variety) so you might want to buy a copy from Lulu, although I heard Amazon sales may be coming soon, too.

Listen, Do You Want To Know A Secret?

We’re in the business of digging for insights and that frequently takes us into the territory where secrets reside. Recently my colleague and I sat in the bedroom of a young rapper and watched as he demonstrated his creative process. While playing a simple backing track on iTunes, he improvised into a hand held recorder for a few minutes. Afterwards, he sat down with a notebook and reviewed his recording, scribbling furiously as he refined the lyrics. Finally, he took the new text and performed it against the same backing track.

Had anyone ever witnessed this particular music-making process before? We didn’t think so. But was it a secret? Probably not. Although it may have been hidden from view, the details of his process were undiscovered, rather than secret.

To reveal the undiscovered, the first thing to do is look. Go where something is happening, and watch. Sometimes we have to do more than look, we have to ask. Find someone who is involved in something that is happening, and ask them.

To get to the “secrets”, we have to do more than ask, we have to listen. Listening is much more complex than asking. It means adjusting our mindset and ensuring that we’re truly giving permission for secrets to be revealed.


It’s easy to fall into the familiar mode where we consider secrets as that which is deliberately hidden because it’s inherently bad or wrong. And although only the Shadow knows for sure what evil lurks in the hearts of men, consider that much of what is kept secret is out of our fear of violating social norms (the unspoken rules of a culture that determine what is and isn’t acceptable) and being embarrassed rather than being sent to jail. As producers of goods and services and experiences, it’s powerful and useful to understand these fears.

Those secrets are not unattainable, but they require a significant listening effort. The engine that drives the Age of Conversation isn’t talking, but listening.


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