Why A Listening Tour?
If you take a quick read of my background and manifesto, you’ll hopefully see that I have a lifelong interest in how the tools of business can change the world for better. I realized recently that my consumption of information on this topic has been in one regard super broad and in another regard super narrow. I basically read whatever I stumble across in newsletters, social media posts and my Feedly stream of blog posts. No real focus to speak of. At the same time, like most people, my information stream has a natural bias towards people, organizations and news sources that I already know. For me that means a heavy slant towards the venture capital industry.
In a blinding flash of the obvious, I’ve decided to consciously narrow and broaden my focus. I want to narrow it in on Chicago. I’ve lived here my entire adult life (albeit a proud Hoosier by birth) and love it. But candidly, I’ve lost touch with what’s up in my backyard. At the same time, I want to broaden my scope beyond the world of venture capital. There’s fascinating stuff going on with social investing in public markets, real estate, private equity, microenterprise lending, etc.
What’s a Listening Tour?
In the venture capital sector, you’ll hear about an entrepreneur or VC that’s done a listening tour on some sort subject or another. The idea is that they identify an area of interest that may have a promising entrepreneurial opportunity. But it’s undefined. So, the person or firm will launch off on a listening tour. They’ll basically meet with anybody in that particular area that will talk to them. The goal is simply to ask about trends and unsolved problems. It reminds me of the anthropology field research class I took as an undergrad. (Another illustration of the massive value of a liberal arts undergrad degree. Anthropology Field Research and Empirical Political Research were hands down the most valuable classes I took.)
So I decided to do my own version of a listening tour during 2017 (I know April is a bit late for a New Year’s resolution, but hey…better late than never.) My plan includes more focused listening to social media streams from Chicago based impact investors and attempting to have b’fast/lunch/coffee/beer with someone different every week.
In both classes, I learned that capturing the observations and data from research is as important as collecting it. So, I’m adding a Listening Tour category to this blog where I’ll be typing up notes, thoughts, conclusions and follow-up questions as I meet with people. And you may notice a shift in my tweeting and sharing. As I find good stuff I’ll share and comment. Selfishly as a way for me to think and remember. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting for your journey as well.
With that…I’m off to lunch with the COO of a local microenterprise lender.