Active Listening Increases Competitive Capabilities in Your Organization

Active Listening Increases Competitive Advantage

Companies that learn faster and use knowledge sharing more effectively tend to be leaders.

Organizational learning (OL) and knowledge management (KM) are two fundamental fields that add value to organizations by spotlighting how they achieve their goals to grow their competitive capabilities.  These two frameworks give companies who pay attention to listening and learning distinct competitive and strategic advantages.


Individuals and organizations learn by sharing knowledge and practicing great listening.  According to, knowledge sharing is the core process responsible for knowledge creation and application for innovation and competitive capability.

Active Listening is a core process responsible for knowledge creation and learning – a true differentiator for learning organizations.

Profit from a Growth Mindset

A learning organization is one that has a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.

Active Listening is a key characteristic of a growth or learning mindset.

Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning through active listening.

When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.

And whereas fixed-mindset organizations typically emphasize applicants’ credentials and past accomplishments, growth-mindset firms value potential, capacity, and a passion for learning. “Focusing on pedigree…is not as effective as looking for people who love challenges, who want to grow, and who want to collaborate,” Carol Dweck says.

Sharing What We Know

Knowledge is both created and shared when diverse perspectives are brought together in conversation – when people can build on each other’s ideas.

Practice and create self-awareness of your listening habits to get the greatest value from knowledge sharing conversations. Understand what your general tendencies are and use awareness to bring yourself back to active listening.  Active listening provides the person speaking with more options for thoughtful pauses and further detail or elaboration.

Often these are the moments when real understanding or ah-hah’s emerge both for the speaker and the listener.

Taking prompts from what the speaker is sharing, the context, and sentiment, the listener has the chance to draw out more detail using open ended questions – especially useful when in a mentor/mentee situation, and in a knowledge continuity conversation.

Knowledge sharing enables collaboration and active listening enables knowledge sharing.

Our most effective knowledge sharing tool is conversation. The words we choose, the questions we ask, and the metaphors we use to explain ourselves, are what determine our success in creating new knowledge, as well as sharing that knowledge with each other. Nancy Dixon, 2016

Keeping Critical Know-How

Active listening is also key to knowledge continuity and transfer.

Plan out or seek spontaneous opportunities for knowledge sharing conversations to discover and retain previously undocumented tacit or implicit deep smarts.

Involve key role ‘experts’ who transition out and those coming in to get the best open questions and detailed answers.  Aim to bring out experts’ tacit deep smarts (experienced based) or that which is typically not documented but understood. Capture what you learn. Ensure that what you document is made available to ‘nextperts’ to re-use and apply to innovate.

Give Full Attention

While using active listening awareness, ask open ended questions. This allows you to minimally step in and seek more from speaker, and then step back out of the way, without talking over or filling in the gaps for the speaker.  Ask questions that deepen understanding.  Keep the focus on the speaker.

By practicing self-awareness, you can listen with greater care—not only to words, but also to the emotion and meaning that is being expressed.

Mindfully apply active listening to knowledge sharing conversations and culture to amplify organizational learning and strategic capabilities.